The Toronto Board of Health has unanimously passed a new vaccination strategy that seeks to end all philosophical and religious exemptions for immunizing students.

The board approved the strategy during a meeting on Monday that was repeatedly interrupted by dozens of anti-vaccination protestors.

The protesters, many of whom wore T-shirts that read “Where there is risk, there must be a choice,” cried out “shame” during the actual vote.

The new strategy aims to address “vaccine hesitancy” through a number of measures, including a new policy that would prevent students from skipping out on vaccinations for religious or philosophical reasons. Exemptions for medical reasons would remain in place.

The policy will require the province to make changes to the Immunization of School Pupils Act to go into effect but on Monday a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health told CTV News Toronto that there are no plans to do that at this time.

“The Ministry of Health is continually evaluating the best available evidence to improve the uptake of vaccines, reduce risk of disease outbreaks, and achieve better health for all Ontarians,” Hayley Chazan said.

Increase in parents choosing not to vaccinate children

According to a report from Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa, there has been a steady increase in parents choosing not to vaccinate their children due to philosophical or religious reasons.

She said that in the 2018-2019 school year, 1.72 per cent of students skipped the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, which was up 0.8 percentage points from 13 years ago.

On Monday deputants told the Board of Health that requiring them to vaccinate their children is “not moral” and is a violation of their rights. Many also suggested that they or their children had been harmed by vaccines in the past.

According to de Villa’s report, only one out of one million to one out of 10 million vaccinations administered result in serious reactions.

“I am with the scientists and the scientists overwhelmingly say across the globe that these vaccinations do a great deal to keep people healthy and make sure they don’t spread disease to others,” Mayor John Tory told CP24 on Monday night. “People who believe that it is an infringement on their rights have the option of going to court and challenging the laws and regulations that are proposed but we are going to opt for the broader public interest and say that if you want to be in the school system then you have to be vaccinated against things like

The World Health Organization has identified vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 global health threats and in her report de Villa said that the ending of religious and philosophical exemptions for students is necessary to prevent opt outs from reaching ““dangerously high levels” in Toronto.

Currently, parents who request a philosophical or religious vaccine exemption must complete an education session before that request is granted.

“We have seen measles, which were basically eradicated, now starting to come back. Not in large numbers but that is not the point. If you want to keep measles from coming back and becoming the sort of widespread disease it was when I was a child you want to make sure that people are vaccinated so that doesn’t happen,” Tory told CP24. “The measles vaccination has been given to millions of children with nothing but a positive effect over time.”