A mother from North Bay, Ontario said there was a need to provide more protection for families at COVID-19 child vaccination clinics following reported harassment last weekend.
Abby Blaszczyk visited a vaccination clinic on November 28th with her son Nolan, 7, who was recently eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination.
On the way to and from the appointment, Blaszczyk said they faced a barrage of verbal harassment from anti-vaccine protesters.
They told me I murdered my son, I commit genocide, things like that.– Abby Blaszczyk
Blaszczyk said it was a troubling experience for her mother and four-year-old daughter, who both came to support Nolan when he got his shot.
“They told me that I… murdered my son, committed genocide, things like that. And then just misinformation about the vaccine itself, ”she said
She said she was shocked by the portrayal, largely because she didn’t see similar demonstrations earlier this year when she got her own recordings in adult clinics. Blaszczyk said she heard from several families who had the same experience at the clinic.
“I just wanted to protect my son and daughter and get out of there as soon as possible,” she said.
Workers at the clinic at One Kids Place told Blaszczyk that they saw no one during the construction, she said. At the time, Blaszczyk said there were no police or security guards at the clinic, but when a friend arrived three hours later, there was a single police car on site.
She said the police should have been on site all day given the reported behavior of the protesters.
“The things they were shouting were verbal assaults. It was assault, it was harassment, and it was intimidation; it wasn’t a protest,” she said.
North Bay Police have confirmed that the force is investigating an incident at the child vaccination clinic and will issue a press release on November 30th.
“The NBPS respects the right of individuals to protest peacefully, but cannot tolerate any interference with people’s right to safety when visiting one of the clinics. We will increase the police presence in the clinic area and if the protest escalates into criminal behavior we will not hesitate to take enforcement action, “Insp. Jeff Warner said in a statement emailed.
Difficult conversations with children
Blaszczyk said she had difficult conversations with her children about the behavior they observed. She said she was concerned that her son might have difficulty with vaccinations in the future based on the experience on that day.
“I’ll just keep talking to him about it as best we can. I’m just explaining that these people are just molesters, they are intimidators of small, scared children who are just trying to get medical help,” she said.
North Bay Mayor Al McDonald said he supported the democratic right to protest, but the behavior at this clinic was absolutely unacceptable. He said he encourages people to follow medical advice and get vaccinated, but those who insist to protest do so in an appropriate manner.
“Come and protest in the town hall, make as much noise as you can. But there is no need to harass grandparents or parents or the families that are there or yell obscenely, just try to do what is best for them children, “McDonald said.
He said it was important for people to get medical advice and accurate information about vaccinations, and he expected safety precautions to be taken in future vaccination clinics. When CBC News spoke to the mayor, he had not spoken to the North Bay Police about the incident.
The Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli said in a statement that laws already exist to protect individuals from intimidation and harassment if they get vaccinated.
“It is already a criminal offense to threaten and intimidate people, and the police have the power to break up demonstrations,” said Fedeli.
He said that any form of harassment against a patient or health care worker was “disgusting and completely unacceptable”.
The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit said vaccination is the best way to protect people from COVID-19, and people must respect those who made the informed decision to vaccinate.
“The health department recognizes the right to peaceful demonstrations, but intimidation and harassment of young children and their families attending vaccination clinics are unacceptable forms of protest. The health department is working closely with local police and security companies to protect customers and employees, “it said in a statement.
Before the editorial deadline, the health department did not answer a follow-up question about why security was not on site in the entire clinic.