Some Ottawa community centres are now requiring children as young as five to show proof of double vaccination to enrol in its programs, while one is requiring adults to have had their third shots. 

The Glebe and Ottawa South community centres, as well as the Dovercourt Recreation centre, are all requiring that children born in 2016 or earlier show proof of double vaccination in order to participate in programs.

These programs include after school clubs, breakfast clubs, art and dance classes, as well as summer and March break camps.

“When you come to your first program session, you will be asked to show proof of double vaccination for your child aged 5 to 17 and a corresponding piece of government-issued ID showing the name of the child being registered,” reads the website of the Old Ottawa South Community Association.

In addition to requiring young kids to be vaccinated, the Ottawa South Community Centre is mandating the booster shot for any adult wishing to participate in programs effective Mar 1.

There appears to be no mention of medical or religious exemptions on the websites of the Ottawa South or Glebe community centre websites. 

The Dovercourt website does state that only medical exemptions will be considered, although those who manage to obtain such an exemption would have to undergo bi-weekly testing at their own expense. 

True North reached out to the three community centres to ask why they had implemented these policies given that the province is not mandating the vaccine for young children.

“The health and safety of our children, our clients, our staff and everyone’s family continue to be our top priority,” said the Glebe Neighbourhood Activities Group (GNAG), which runs the Glebe Community Centre.  “We are a small organization with limited staff resources and are unfortunately not well equipped to handle an outbreak or a sudden staff shortage.” 

GNAG also told True North, “should the situation of this pandemic change, we will adjust our policy in a manner that is responsive and reasonable.”

While these Canadian community centres are requiring that parents share their children’s medical information to prove that they’ve been vaccinated, some countries have altered course on children’s vaccinations.

The Swedish health agency has even recommended against vaccinating children aged five-to-11, claiming that the risks outweigh the benefits.

“With the knowledge we have today, with a low risk for serious disease for kids, we don’t see any clear benefit with vaccinating them,” said Swedish health official Britta Bjorkholm.

In Denmark, pediatricians have questioned vaccinating young children and have called on the government to review whether it should continue recommending that parents vaccinate their five-to-11-year-olds.

While every province in Canada had implemented a vaccine passport during the pandemic, none opted to expand those mandates to cover young children, with some premiers stressing the importance of parental choice.

“I’m going to leave that up to the parent when it comes to five-to-11-year-olds. Do we want to get them vaccinated? Yes. But there are some parents that are vaccinated, they are a little hesitant at the age of five or six. I get it,” said Ontario Premier Doug Ford in October.

Ford announced this week that provincial proof of vaccination requirements would be dropped on Mar 1. 

These community centres will still be allowed to require proof of vaccination, however.