Mandatory vaccination for school children is being debated this week as the Manitoba School Boards Association heads to its annual convention.

On Friday, the MSBA will vote on a resolution being proposed by the Brandon School Division to lobby the province to enact legislation to make vaccinations mandatory for school children, except when a child is allergic or has an immune disorder.

Linda Ross, chairperson of board of trustees for BSD, said a similar resolution was brought forward at the MSBA’s annual convention in 2015 but it was defeated.

“We are bringing it forward again. We provided some additional information at this time, and I’m hoping it will get a better reception this time around,” Ross said. “We have concerns that the rates of vaccination are decreasing, that is, increasing numbers of parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children.”

The resolution proposes mandatory vaccinations for nine diseases: diphtheria, lockjaw, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, meningitis, whooping cough and chicken pox.

According the province’s 2014 Annual Immunization Surveillance Report, in 2014, 78 per cent of the population under 1-years-old had received vaccinations for diphtheria, lockjaw, whooping cough, polio and pneumococcal infections. The provincial average for 2014 was in line with the average from three years prior. But the 2014 report also noted there had been a small and continuous decline in childhood immunization rates in the province’s Southern Health Region for several years, which saw an immunization rate of 67 per cent for the same vaccines in 2014.

“It’s very, very safe. It’s very, very effective. And it’s the biggest discovery in public health and is keeping kids healthy,” said pediatrician Dr. Stan Lipnowski. “That’s what the vaccines so. They prevent the illness from getting into the school so those kids who are susceptible don’t ever see that germ or virus.”

Arthur Schafer, founding Director of the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics at the University of Manitoba, questions if mandatory vaccinations are necessary.

“I’m wondering, what’s going to happen to the parents who refuse? Are their children going to be vaccinated coercively against the wishes of the parents?” Schafer asked. “Is this going to be an evidenced-based policy that coercion works better than the alternatives?”

When CTV News contacted the province, a spokesperson said Manitoba wasn’t considering making vaccinations mandatory here. But the province is implementing several strategies to increase immunization coverage among school-aged children, including mailing out letters to parents of children at 15 months, 20 months and 5 and a half years to remind them of any vaccines their child may have missed, as per the routine immunization schedule. The province also sends an immunization certificate to parents whose children are 7 years old to province an immunization history.