A charity for sick children backed by McDonald’s has denied claims that it is evicting a four-year-old boy with leukaemia because his parents refuse to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
Families staying at Ronald McDonald House (RMH) in Vancouver, Canada, were told on Monday that they must get at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine before the end of the month in order to stay.
The facility is one of about 375 Ronald McDonald Houses across the world that give free accommodation to sick children and their families who must travel far from their homes to get specialist medical care.
Austin Furgason, a Canadian electrician and father of two who is staying at charity’s British Columbia chapter in Vancouver while his four-year-old son Jack is treated for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, accused the charity of threatening him, his wife and Jack with “eviction” due to their beliefs.
But a spokesperson for RMH BC told The Independent that it would find alternative accommodation for the Fergasons and any other unvaccinated residents, claiming: “No family will ever be evicted from our House.”
Mr Fergason did not respond to a request for comment.
The dispute is one of many confrontations taking place across the world as medical providers and other institutions trying to boost vaccination rates and keep their service users safe run into staunch opposition from anti-vaxxers.
In a letter to residents given by Mr Furgason to the Canadian news website True North, RMH BC’s senior director of family services Leslie Louie said that all residents, workers, and visitors over five years old must be at least partially vaccinated by 31 January.
A spokesperson said the policy was based on a recommendation by local public health officials and intended to “protect the vulnerable population of sick children we serve in congregate settings and limit the spread of Covid-19 and its variants.” Children who cannot be vaccinated due to medical treatments are exempt.
Mr Fergason, a conservative Christian who regularly criticises Covid vaccines, face masks, and other safety measures on his Facebook page alongside posts opposing abortion and transgender rights, uploaded a video on Tuesday that showed him confronting an RMH BC manager about the policy.
“This is an abomination,” he said. “This is not Canada. This is an absolute disgrace to our country. To be saying that your sick kid with leukaemia, he’s not welcome here anymore? I thought we were a country that stood against segregation.”
He claimed that his family were “not anti-vaxxers” because Jack has been vaccinated against other diseases, but argued that Covid vaccines do not reduce transmission. “Don’t think you guys are just going to get away with this,” he concluded. “We’re going to fight this and expose it to people, because this is a great evil that has been done today.”
He told True North: “My wife Lindsey was crying on the bed. I told her, I’m going to go ask the manager about this because this isn’t even real… I felt like God was in my heart telling me, you have to address this as a man, you have to expose this for what it is.”
RMH BC said: “Ronald McDonald House will support any family in need of alternate accommodation if needed after the grace period… our team has been in contact with the family in regards to this specific situation, and we are supporting arrangements for alternate accommodations.”
“We appreciate that this policy will impact those who have made a decision not to vaccinate; however, we must continue to prioritize the health, safety, and welfare of the vulnerable populations that we serve.”