The Private Member Bill amends the Child Care Act and aims to bring transparency to the child care center market, in the interest of parents who are concerned about whether they take their children to a safe environment with regard to vaccinations. Childcare centers must be transparent about their policies regarding the acceptance or rejection of children and unvaccinated staff. Parents can then make an informed decision about a childcare center for their children. With this law, the initiators also aim to increase the vaccination rate in order to improve public health.
A large number of political groups (CDA, GroenLinks, PvdA, ChristenUnie, SP and SGP) were not convinced of the utility and necessity of the bill. They expressed concern about the violation of the basic rights of parents and children when asked about vaccinations for children. They also questioned whether the bill would increase vaccination coverage. A large number of other political groups (VVD, Nanninga Group, D66 and PVV) saw the utility and necessity of the bill. According to them, it is a good idea for parents to be able to make an informed decision when seeking childcare for their children. As far as they are concerned, the potential increase in the rate of vaccination is a good bonus in this case. At the end of the debate, initiator Van Menen said he would consider whether objections from the House of Representatives could be removed with potential amendments to the bill, before voting on the bill.
Not sure if this is the right thing
Senator Jansevoort (GroenLinks) said history shows how important vaccination is. So increasing the vaccination rate is important, but he wondered if this bill was the right tool for that. He also questioned whether this would increase transparency for parents about childcare centers. In addition, according to Ganzevoort, the risk of infectious disease outbreaks is greater in child care centers that care for unvaccinated children than in centers that receive only vaccinated children. He asked if the initiators adequately understood the Senate’s criticism of the bill. According to Ganzevoort, a different route can be used to increase the rate of vaccination. The Minister of State asked how the Cabinet intends to reach out to specific groups of parents of unvaccinated children with the aim of increasing the vaccination rate.
Is there a legal basis for refusal?
Senator Jerkins (SP) said she understands that young parents can have skepticism about immunizations. Suspicion is allowed, she said, but vaccinations have prevented much misery. However, according to her, there is hardly any choice of childcare, and the legislative proposal will reduce the choice of parents only, for example because there are already few childcare centers in the immediate vicinity. Gerkens also asked the initiators why they thought the vaccination rate would increase with this proposal. She also wanted to know on the basis of what law children could be refused vaccination. Finally, Jerkins agreed with Gansevoort’s question for the secretary of state about how the Cabinet thought it would reach specific groups of parents of unvaccinated children with the goal of increasing the vaccination rate.
Heavy on the stomach
In the opinion of Senator Prins (CDA), this bill should also be viewed in the context of the coronavirus. Prins says the CDA, like its initiators, is convinced of the importance of vaccines, but the bill is a heavy burden on its group. According to her, concern for public health is a matter of the government and not of commercial organizations such as childcare centers. According to Prins, the government should take measures to promote public health. It explicitly called on the government to commit to continuing to promote the national vaccination programme. She pointed out that according to the State Council, the use of this law is legitimate if there is an objective justification. In response to the State Council, the initiators “reluctantly” added a second goal, which is to promote public health, according to Prince.
Informed choice gives parents peace of mind
According to Senator Van der Voort (D66), it gives parents peace of mind when their child is in child care with only vaccinated children. Not all children in child care centers have been vaccinated yet, because they are still very young. It is therefore important for them to have as many vaccinated children around them as possible. He thought it important to say that the law does not create an obligation to vaccinate. Van der Voort found that the initiators made it reasonable that childcare centers could refuse unvaccinated children, also on the basis of a ruling by the European Court of Justice. Van der Voort acknowledged that it is not yet clear whether this bill will increase vaccination rates, but it may help. He asked the Cabinet if she could undertake an evaluation of the law.
Children should not be victims
Senator Van Strijn (PVV) also pointed out that a baby of a few weeks old can’t be vaccinated yet, because the immune system is not good yet. According to him, the percentage of parents who do not allow their children to participate in the national vaccination program is not large, but there is still a group of children who have not been fully vaccinated. While respecting parents who do not wish their children to be vaccinated, the PVV has also requested respect for parents who do not wish to place their children in a daycare center with unvaccinated children. Parents should not allow their children to become victims of parents who irresponsibly risk their children’s lives, says van Strijn. His only question to initiators and ministers was whether they could indicate that the coronavirus vaccination would not be included in the national children’s vaccination program.
Not convinced that this law is necessary
Senator Verkerk (Christinoni) said he understands parental turmoil in the declining vaccination rate. So he was not yet convinced that the bill was both necessary and desirable and therefore questioned whether the law was really necessary. Specifically, he wanted to know if lawsuits would be brought against childcare centers that refused children. and whether this law provides the basis for rejecting unvaccinated children. He also wanted to know if this bill was a good tool to reduce the vaccination rate. Verkerk asked Foreign Minister van Uygen if the bill would support the current “follow-up vaccination” programme. The Christian Union’s concern is not to give parents false hopes for protection from contagious diseases. The faction had a lot of sympathy for the idea behind the law, but believed that this law was not necessary.
Childcare centers should provide a healthy environment
Senator De Bruijn-Wezeman (VVD) said the Netherlands had become indifferent about maintaining vaccination coverage for children. She asked the ministers what targets the government had set to increase the vaccination rate. Childcare centers should provide a healthy environment for children and their staff, says De Bruyne. She wondered whether it was possible to infringe on physical integrity by requesting such information. Like her fellow CDA Prins, De Bruijn-Wezeman was of the opinion that the government should ensure adequate legislation to protect public health. However, according to her, conditional access to childcare centers can be determined, but then the government must define evaluation frameworks for this. As far as VVD is concerned, everything is done to raise the vaccination rate.
Parents may be subjected to coercion
Senator Schalke (SGP) respected the coherence of the initiative’s proposal sponsors. His concern was for parents who depend on shelters who might feel compelled to vaccinate their children if this law were passed. Schalk had doubts about the bill’s effectiveness: would it achieve what the initiators wanted it to achieve, he wondered. According to Schalk, the bill’s approach is noble. But he said the law begins with a parent’s right to make an informed decision and ends convincingly with the vaccination campaign, leaving less room for parents’ informed choice.
Talk about a false sense of security?
Senator Voss (PvdA) also had doubts about the utility and necessity of the bill. Voss wondered: There is a great individual right in him, but how does this relate to the group. She wanted to know if this law was actually beneficial to public health, and whether there was no clear certainty. Vos noted that the bill would place an additional administrative burden on child care centers. Voss also noted the potential negative consequences, such as fires in centers for unvaccinated children. I asked the government if it would be better for public health to increase vaccination rates some other way, without shifting responsibility from the government to childcare centers. Voss also believes that this is actually the job of the government.
Parents should be able to choose
Senator Van Bareren (Nanninga Group) said that parents should have the option of caring for their children well in a childcare center that offers optimum protection and security. His group recommends vaccination, but she doesn’t want to make it mandatory. According to Van Pareren, these are, after all, children who fall under the responsibility of the parents. Parents should be able to make a decision about a childcare center based on the right information, Van Pareren says. According to him, parents and staff are free not to cooperate in the provision of vaccination status. All things considered, Nanninga Group supports the bill.
The response of the initiators and the government
Member of Parliament and initiator Van Menen (D66), who also spoke on behalf of fellow Raemakers (D66), said the bill’s primary goal is to encourage informed choice for parents when they are looking for a childcare centre. The secondary objective of the bill is to protect public health.
Given the complexity of the controversy over the national vaccination program and low support for vaccination at the time the bill was introduced, according to the petitioners, Van Menen and Ramekers suggest starting with the lowest drastic measure to protect public health. Van Menen says the law will be evaluated after two years. He said at the end of the debate that he would consider whether criticism from the Senate could lead to potential amendments to the bill, before a vote is held on Tuesday, May 10.
Minister for Social Affairs and Employment Van Jenep said the initiators’ goals are sympathetic, but the Cabinet sees more and more obstacles in the bill. The Cabinet took a neutral stance, but submitted some comments and comments to the House of Representatives. According to Van Genip, the government is not convinced that the bill contributes to achieving the stated goals. The real solution, according to the minister, lies in increasing the vaccination rate – by other means.
Minister of State for Health, Welfare and Sport van Uygen said good communication about the importance of vaccination is very important. He pledged to send a message on how to improve communication with a view to increasing vaccination coverage. In response to a question from Senator Van Strijn, Van Augen said that vaccination against Covid is legally part of the national vaccination program. Minister Van Genip also reiterated this in the discussion. In the context of this law, this may also have consequences for adult staff in child care centers.