Vaccination experts discuss ethics of mandatory immunization

The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Public Affairs hosts a panel discussion on ethical implications of mandatory vaccination.

The recent measles outbreaks in North America have sparked the demand for an educated debate on vaccination ethics – and four experts on the issue of vaccines sat down on Monday to facilitate just that.

On March 23 an audience gathered in the Paul O’Regan Hall at the Halifax Central Library to attend VacciNATION?, a panel discussion hosted by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Public Affairs (CCEPA) in collaboration with the Dalhousie Health Law Institute.

The panel consisted of Elaine Gibson, associate professor of law at the Schulich School of Law, Dr. Scott Halperin, director of the Canadian Center for Vaccinology, Janet Hazelton, president of the Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union, and Dr. Robert Strang, chief public health officer at the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness.

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The four panelists at VacciNATION. Photo: Patrick Fulgencio

“It’s not a science debate about vaccinations,” said Kevin Kindred, moderator of the discussion. “The debate is really on the civil liberties and practice implications of mandatory vaccinations.”

The discussion was split into two themes, one theme dealing with mandatory vaccination for children and the general population, and the other theme dealing with mandatory vaccination in the healthcare sector for healthcare workers.

Over the course of the discussion, the ability to make informed decisions kept arising as a concern among the panelists.

“I think in general we need more public discussion around vaccination because there’s so much misinformation and myths out there,” said Strang. “I think we need to broaden the conversation and that’s what tonight was really about, bringing more of that collective societal good and so we need a more collective perspective and a collective conversation about the importance of vaccination.”

Elaine Gibson weighing in on the discussion. Photo: Patrick Fulgencio
Elaine Gibson weighing in on the discussion. Photo: Patrick Fulgencio

Questions from the audience covered topics like herd immunity, preventative measures, research efficacy, and risks versus benefits of vaccination.

Elaine Gibson said that herd immunity was of fundamental importance. She said that when each person gets their child vaccinated, they are participating in a collective effort for Canadian society, and that parents who did not were acting in a profoundly selfish manner.

Dr. Halperin stressed the necessity of vaccines, saying that “the only prevention for measles is either not coming in contact with human beings, or vaccine.”

Dr. Scott Halperin partaking answers a question. Photo: Patrick Fulgencio
Dr. Scott Halperin answers a question. Photo: Patrick Fulgencio

At the end of the discussion, Dr. Judith Kazimirski, a CCEPA board member and a medical practitioner for over 40 years, was invited to the podium to offer closing remarks.

“I fundamentally believe that if we deny what science has given us, in terms of how do we protect ourselves against deadly disease, it’s stupidity,” said Kazimirski. “How we live matters. The issues we talked about this evening matter a great deal. And I hope that that discussion will only continue after you get out this evening.”

March Break Video Academy gives youths learning opportunity

The Centre for Art Tapes is holding a video workshop over March Break that is centered around giving youths an introduction into filmmaking.

Six youths between the ages of 12 and 17 are spending their March Break getting acquainted with the art of filmmaking – in a program that is the first of its kind in Halifax.

The March Break Video Academy runs from Monday to Friday this week. These teens will spend this time in a small room discussing big ideas and learning fundamental filmmaking skills from two industry professionals.

So far, they have viewed and discussed videos ranging from modern music videos to short films, dissecting every artistic detail to understand them better.

It is the first program of its kind to be held by the Centre for Art Tapes (CFAT). Spearheading the program are Luckas Cardona-Morisset, freelance filmmaker, and Leslie Menagh, arts promoter.

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A discussion taking place at the March Break Video Academy. Photo: Patrick Fulgencio

“There’s a visual language that we assume everybody knows but it’s actually been very carefully constructed over time, it’s been built up,” said Menagh. “So we were kind of working to deconstruct it, take it apart, look at the parts so that we can make those choices on purpose when we make our own film, and look at how deliberate each of those decisions are.”

The next four days will involve workshops on storytelling, prop building, video editing and then a screening on the last day.

“Young people are exposed to media all around them so this is an opportunity for them to learn how it works, how it functions, from the real grassroots to creating their own media,” said Keith McPhail, director of CFAT.

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Keith McPhail in the main office of the Centre for Art Tapes. Photo: Patrick Fulgencio

Not a moment of silence ever loomed over the discussions; the teens gave the facilitators their undivided attention.

“What you end up getting are kids that already are predisposed to thinking about these things. They’re quite thoughtful,” said Cardona-Morisset. “As long as they feel like they’re in a safe space to be creative, once you create that, then it can all come out and they can express themselves.”

Like the Atlantic Film Co-op, CFAT focuses on supporting media artists. The March Break Video Academy, however, focuses specifically on youths. As McPhail describes, it is “an opportunity for us to perhaps make [youth programming] a little more long-term.”

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Participants of the March Break Video Academy watching a short film. Photo: Patrick Fulgencio

“My experience in working with the arts is that it’s an opportunity that when youth – or anybody for that matter – of any age gets the opportunity to express themselves and learn something, it’s a real eye-opening experience,” said McPhail. “And it’s one that is usually a long-lasting impact.”

More Halifax news: Feb. 28-March 2

Catch up on news happening on the Halifax peninsula, as reported by other media outlets.

Monday morning snowfall causes Monday morning mayhem on Halifax roads (Metro News)

By 9:30 a.m. Monday morning, a total of 32 traffic accidents had been reported to police due to heavy snow and bad driving conditions. The accidents included a mixture of head-on collisions, rolled vehicles and vehicles gone off the road. During the morning rush hour, the Bedford Highway was clogged with traffic reaching all the way to Hammonds Plains. Buses were also delayed or on detour.

23rd night of Halifax parking ban, more than 6,000 vehicles ticketed (The Chronicle Herald)

As of  March 1, over 6,000 vehicles have been ticketed for failing to heed the overnight parking ban that has been enforced for 23 nights. Jennifer Stairs, municipal spokeswoman, said that five rented graders and loaders have been acquired by the city in an attempt to clear the ice-filled streets of Halifax. She said that salting and scraping was still continuing on sidewalks. The city has received complaints about snow clearing after two winter storms in the first week of February and is withholding pay to five contractors due to unsatisfactory road conditions.

Dalhousie dentistry students say public attention has been harmful (CBC News)

The 29 fourth-year students of the Dalhousie University dentistry program have come forward to express how they have been affected by the public reaction to misogynistic Facebook comments made by 14 male members of the program. The Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen Facebook group started by the 14 males has gained negative public attention that other dentistry students say is hurtful and sometimes threatening to individuals, friends and family. The statement, posted in sections, has a separate section for commentary from the affected women and the members of the Facebook group.

Former Halifax coach who sexually assaulted girl gets day parole (The Chronicle Herald)

After serving one-third of his 6½-year prison sentence, Stanley Robert Lowther has been granted day parole for six months. A Parole Board of Canada decision released to the Chronicle Herald said that Lowther, a former soccer coach, has completed sex offender programs that helped him keep his behaviour, emotions and thoughts under control. Lowther claimed that loneliness, resentment and attraction to a young female were factors that contributed to his criminal behaviour. While on day parole, he cannot be in presence of girls under the age of 18 and must report to his parole officer about relationships, both sexual and non-sexual. After serving his prison term, Lowther must be registered as a sex offender for 20 years.

Municipality launches public engagement campaign to try and get more people to vote (Metro News)

The city of Halifax is trying to get more people to vote and cast a ballot through a new public engagement campaign. The seven-week campaign began on Monday. It includes an online forum and questionnaire on the Shape Your City Halifax website. This campaign is part of an attempt to get citizens of Halifax to be more interested and engaged in future elections. A public panel is scheduled for Apr. 11 at the Halifax Central Library. Themes for discussion include voter engagement, new voters and accessibility.