At 13, I was caught in a time crunch. This applies to students too | Youssef Zaman

On 13 March, I was called into work for an appointment with my doctor. At the start of my shift, her receptionist told me I was caught in a time crunch. I could not enter my office until after her closing. As I made my way into the waiting room, I saw people leaving, others were on the phone and doctors were arriving for appointments to see their patients.

Each patient I met in that waiting room was asked to get a shot, at least one or two times a day. I’m an international student and was unable to obtain any form of student health insurance. My good work with my GP resulted in moving my last appointment forward, so that my doctor would not have to worry about me getting one.

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With the slim coverage that exists for university students in Ontario, we students are often caught in this “time crunch” situation, as it has been the practice throughout my studies. With the first day of university almost here, students face the additional worry of being left without immunizations and preventing health risks. The moment I heard that the Conservative government of Ontario was planning to implement vaccination requirements for medical professionals, I began to worry that this could have a great impact on health services in my community.

I wanted to keep my long-term health insurance, so I started doing the work required to gain it, which wasn’t easy. Both of my parents are doctors, my mom works at one of the city’s many hospitals and my dad is the head of obstetrics and gynecology. None of them are immunized – my mom would not want to contribute to a strain on the hospital’s capacity and my dad wouldn’t want to contribute to what they believe are misguided vaccination programs.

Over the past two years, I have advocated for those students who are uninsured with my doctor, my university president and Toronto’s public health unit. I see the urgent need for greater immunization coverage, which could have prevented my own little illnesses I picked up in this community.

The provincial government’s proposal would force students who are immunized against diseases like whooping cough, mumps and measles to vaccinate medical workers. The prime minister’s call for a measles vaccination coverage target will affect students who are immunized against these types of diseases, and face the same potential threats as everyone else.

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At the time of writing, there are more than 42,000 vaccinating students in Ontario. If the government began enforcing this policy, many will suffer from the vaccine preventable diseases. In one month, the school year only lasts three months. The last shot I received was one year ago.

I choose to be vaccinated, despite my parents’ concerns. It’s my right to be protected from those diseases. As medical students, our duty to protect others is greater than our own personal choice. I don’t know the numbers of medical professionals who are vaccinated, but since it is a requirement for licensure, it is safe to assume that the percentage is low.

I want to see a world where we have policies that empower us to exercise our rights and responsibilities, whether that’s with regards to parking, elections or health. By mandating that certain groups be vaccinated, many patients will feel that the option to pay for some of these services is more valuable than the vaccines themselves. After all, who hasn’t said that they “can’t afford” a flu shot? It might seem unjust, but should we not question the costs of others’ beliefs?

With the passing of a law that ensures Canada Post employees will receive a reduced amount of their premiums, students and everyone else should be asking themselves if they should have to make changes to their lives based on the anti-vaccination stances of a political party.

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