Policy Briefing

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Should it be mandated that children under the age of 18 receive routine immunization schedule as defined by Alberta Health
1.      Stakeholder Identification
Good Public health is the most important aspect in life which must be greatly considered and therefore, the Alberta Health Services came up with a child immunization schedule. This schedule was meant to be one of the greatest health interventions that would ensure all children are prevented from contacting infectious diseases. Due to the importance of the immunization, it should be made mandatory for all children under the age of 18 to receive the routine immunization. There are several stakeholders who are involved in the issues related to child immunization. These stakeholders include the pediatricians, World Health Organization, Canadian Public Health Association, the minister of health and finally the parents. The final decision maker in matters concerning child immunization and any other health related issues is the minister of health Ms. Petitpas Taylor who has been authorized to make public health decisions. All these stakeholders have diverse levels of influence in the child immunization schedule of Alberta.
Being among the key stakeholders in influencing child immunization policies, the pediatricians are always involved in making decisions that involve the immunization routine. Pediatricians are health professionals who are strictly specialized in treating children and that is the reason why they should be involved when developing the policy. These individuals can influence the immunization schedule as they have intensively studied matters concerning the body of a child and they know the weaknesses and strengths of the children’s body. Therefore, their wide knowledge about children gives them a better position on deciding whether immunization is good or bad for the children’s bodies. The pediatricians are likely to support the idea of mandating the child immunization routine because they are aware of the fact that a child’s body is always at a high risk of being exposed to infectious diseases and thus they would prefer prevention. Since most parents highly believe in the professionals, when they get the message directly from the professionals they will ensure they adhere to the instructions and advice given. This parent- doctor relationship is what makes the involvement of the pediatrics necessary for the success of the matter.
World Health Organization is a global organization that is mainly concerned with public health. This special agency was mainly developed to intervene and ensure that public health is promoted among its member states. The World Health Organization has an influence in the Alberta Child immunization routine as public health is their main concern as an agency. This key stakeholder has high chances of supporting the motion of Alberta routine of child immunization being mandated to all children. The reason for this assumption is because this organization has conducted several researchers and has satisfied that the immunizations are safe. The health agency has also been seen in several cases agitating for immunization in various other member states and therefore Canada will not be an exception. The involvement of World Health Organization may help in making the proposal successful.
Children under the age of 18 are the most significant stakeholders in this issue. They are the ones that are going to receive the vaccination directly. Children that receives the vaccinations are the ones that are going to benefit. They will have an opportunity to develop strong immunity to deal with the disease in case of future incidences. However, children do not have the right to take part in policy making and as such they have to be presented by their parents and other bodies. Human right bodies can push for the signing of the policy so as to ensure that all children have access to good healthcare system.
The Canadian Public Health Agency is a special department in the government of Canada that was introduced with an aim of helping the Canadian citizens to improve on their health through preventing diseases that are of threat to good public health. Being a governmental health agency, it has a high level of influence when making decisions in matters concerning the health of its citizens. This agency should be considered in the development of the policy as it has the ability, authority and resources to carry out civic awareness as well as sensitizing the public to consider taking their children for immunizations thus making the development successful.
The Canadian parents are among the most important stakeholders in the child immunization routine as they have the greatest influence. They are considered as the greatest influencers because they are responsible for bringing up children and they also have the decision to either take their children for vaccination or not. All the other stakeholders have the ability to advocate for child immunization but without the consent of the parents, the children will still not be taken for immunization. Therefore, when making decisions concerning the development of the policy, the parents should be highly involved and convinced to acknowledge the Alberta child immunization routine. Parents always want the best for their children and they are therefore likely to either accept or reject the development of the immunization policy depending on the quality of knowledge they will be exposed to about immunization. Parents have the highest influence in the issue as once they have accepted the issue, they will all willingly take their children for the necessary vaccinations and when they reject the proposal, they will not present their children for the vaccinations.
The Minister of health in Canada becomes the major decision maker when it comes to mandating child immunization in accordance to the Alberta health routine. The entire health sector is led by the minister of health who has been appointed by the government to manage and promote health related issues. When making the development policy and negotiations, the minister should always be involved as she is in charge of making the final decision of whether child immunization should be declared mandatory in Canada or not. Despite the fact that all the other stakeholders might be in support of the proposal of mandating without the consent of the minister, the proposal cannot be legalized. The minister is likely to accept the proposal because as a medical professional, she clearly understands the vulnerability of children when it comes to infections. Therefore, the involvement of the minister in the negotiations increases the chances of the proposal succeeding.
            Policy brief for the decision maker
1.      Title
This briefing note targets the Canadian Minister of Health and the briefing is about mandating the idea that all children below the age of 18 should receive the Alberta health routine immunization.
2.      Purpose
The main purpose of this briefing is to explain to the minister of health why it is important for her to make it mandatory for all the Canadian children below 18 years of age to receive the routine immunization that was outlined by the Alberta health services. Child immunization is an important issue in public health that was mainly designed to protect the children’s weak immunity from affected by infectious diseases. However, since it has not been made mandatory in the country, most parents choose not to take their children for these immunizations thus exposing them to high risk of being infected by various diseases. Some of the diseases that are prevented by the vaccines include; tetanus, whooping cough, Polio, Pneumonia, Diphtheria and Measles among others. The briefing also includes background information about child immunization, the opinion of Canadian Public Health Agency about child immunization, the current situation concerning immunization and finally recommendations that can help improve child immunization.
3.      Background
Vaccines are drugs that are given to children below the age of 18 to prevent them from contracting serious infectious diseases. Each of the issued vaccines are only effective when offered at its appropriate time. The health of children is important yet very vulnerable to infections thus prevention is important. Due to this, the Alberta Health Services in Canada came up with an immunization routine with an aim of boosting the immunity of children. Their immunization routine consists of the vaccination, the disease being vaccinated and the appropriate time of vaccination. Despite the good will of the Alberta health services in providing the vaccines, most of the Canadian parents are still hesitant in taking their children to receive these important vaccines. Attitude and doubt have been the major factor that makes most parents hesitant to accept child immunization and this is a matter that should be given great consideration. Some parents fail to take their children for vaccination because of the fear of the existing diverse side effects while others have heard the recent failure of the effectiveness of these vaccinations. However, there are parents from the marginalized communities that live in the interior areas who are still uninformed of the existence of these vaccines. The findings of the research also showed that most individuals get the negative and untrue information concerning vaccines from the internet and social media sites. All these have caused parents to hesitate exposing their children to vaccination which is a critical health aspect. Therefore, it is important for the ministry of health on conjunction with other health stakeholders to come out clearly and explain the importance of vaccination to the citizens. The health minister should also declare child immunization mandatory in Canada so that the citizens can realize how important and serious vaccination is.
In most cases, people have been known to reject vaccination mainly based on their religious beliefs. Some people believe that they children will be saved by the God that they are saving and as such they do not need any modern medication in their children. Such parents have been known to lock their children in their houses even when they are sick. Some people also believed that modern medicine are toxic chemicals that makes the health of their children worse than they are. In such cases, those people will only ensure that they children are treated with herbal medicine and that they do take their children to the hospital. Parents that fail to take their children to the clinic should be held accountable for their failure to ensure that children below the age of eighteen have access to affordable healthcare. Preventing the disease is better than taking measures to treat the disease and that is the main reason parents should be mandated to ensure that they children are immunized at the right time.
            Some parents tend to let their children get away with whatever they want. Such are the parents that may fail to ensure that their children fail to get vaccinated because the child does not wish to be injected because of their phobia for needles. Parents should take charge and put the health of their children first. They should be the ones that are dragging their children to the clinic to get the vaccination.
4.      Current situation
 Research done by UNICEF in 2014 showed that the recent child immunization rates in Canada are low compared to that of other countries and this raises concern(1). Among the 29 countries involved in the research, Canada was at position 28 yet child immunization is always used as an indicator that a country has effective preventive health services. The research which proved the poor performance of Canada in child vaccinations pushed UNICEF to demand the providers of vaccination services in Canada to give the matter more attention. The low immunization rates in Canada have denied the country an opportunity to appear among the highly ranked nations in promoting public health. Due to the bad report, the Canadian Public Health Agency has currently put measures in place to try and increase the rates of child immunization within the Country.
Currently, many clinics takes part in informing their patients the importance of ensuring that all their children under the age of eighteen are immunized at the same time. They encourage their patients to bring their children to the clinic so that they can administer the relevant immunization.
5.      Options
There are two main options for this proposal. The first option is that the act of immunizing children should be made mandatory by the ministry of health failure to which the parents will face law issues. On the other hand, the second option is that parents should be educated on child immunization and thereafter left to take their children for immunization at their own will. Both of these options have their own advantages and disadvantages. The first option of forcing parents to take their children for immunization is advantageous in that all the Canadian children will finally be immunized. However, its main disadvantage comes in when the children experience adverse side effects. In such a case, the parents will blame the ministry for their children’s conditions. For instance, a research conducted showed that previously in 2013 there had been a Measles outbreak in Canada which was a clear indicator that their measles vaccine had failed and in that case the department of Public health was questioned. The second option of parents being allowed to make their own decisions is advantageous because parents will not only take their children for vaccinations because it is a rule but because they personally understand its importance. On the other hand, its disadvantage is that some parents will be educated but still choose to be ignorant as their children are at a risk of being infected by various diseases. From the analysis of the 2013 crisis, most stakeholders prefer parents to voluntarily take their children to be vaccinated. Therefore, considering the advantages and disadvantages of the both options, the stakeholders will be impacted positively by the second opinion of parents being given the opportunity to decide the fate of their children’s health.
6.      Recommendations
Finally, I would recommend that the minister of health should work hand in hand with other stakeholders with influence in child immunization to organize a civic education program that would be spread out to reach all citizens even at grassroot level that will clearly help them to understand the importance of acknowledging the stated Alberta health services routine on child immunization.
The ministry of health should also make plans of making these immunization services available to all citizens through making an effort of door to door visits so as to help individuals who cannot easily access the health facilities due to either proximity or disability. When the ministry considers these two recommendations most of the parents will have the factual knowledge about immunization as well as have the ability to easily get the services.


References
1. Scheifele D, Halperin S, Bettinger J. Childhood immunization rates in Canada are too low: UNICEF. Paediatrics & Child Health. 2014;19(5):237-238.