Windsor-Essex MOH calls pediatrician protest a ‘barrier’ to healthcare

WECHU Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Shanker Nesathurai and CEO Nicole Dupuis provide a media update on March 3, 2022. Image courtesy WECHU/YouTube.

The Acting Medical Officer of Health for Windsor-Essex has elaborated on an anti-vaccine protest that took place outside a Windsor doctor’s office.

During a media briefing Friday morning, Dr. Shanker Nesathurai expressed concern over reports that a picket line of people opposed to COVID-19 vaccination intimidated children and parents going to appointments at the pediatrician’s Howard Avenue office. The pediatrician had written a letter to the local newspaper criticizing people who have refused a COVID-19 vaccine.

Nesathurai said his main issue is ensuring that all Windsor-Essex residents can seek healthcare without being hassled.

“I think we should be cognizant and recognize that it’s stressful for children and their parents to have to deal with protestors in a picket line when they’re trying to get their children basic and important medical care,” said Nesathurai.

Dr. Huma Kazmie, who has practiced pediatric medicine for over 20 years, did not hold back in criticizing the anti-vax movement in a letter written last fall to the Windsor Star.

“Today we have excellent, effective and safe vaccines freely available to all Canadians,” wrote Dr. Kazmie. “I feel anyone who refuses to take the vaccine without a valid medical reason should not be allowed back into schools or recreational facilities. Refusing the vaccine is not a matter of freedom of choice, it is matter of life and death that can put everyone’s health and life at risk.”

Nesathurai, who praised Kazmie for her work with children who have multiple illnesses, said he has no interest in hampering Charter rights, but there is a time and place for that kind of discourse.

“When there is a group of protestors on a picket line in front of a physician’s office, that in itself is a barrier to accessing health services,” said Nesathurai. “It’s particularly troublesome because many times people are going to a pediatric’s office with their sick child.”

The health unit joined Windsor Regional Hospital and the Essex County Medical Society Thursday by putting out a joint statement condemning the protests.