Young British Columbians aged 5 to 11 are ready to roll up their sleeves for the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines on Monday, but the majority of them won’t be able to get the jab at school. Neither will students in Alberta and Nova Scotia.
In-school clinics have been given the green light in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
As the vaccination rolls out across the country for children between the ages of 5 and 11, provinces are taking different approaches on how to get as many of them vaccinated as possible. Some critics are calling on their governments to provide shots in schools to make vaccines more convenient and accessible.
In British Columbia, generally, there will not be in-school clinics during school hours. Some schools may be used as locations for clinics after hours and on weekends, as was done for adult doses. According to the Ministry of Health, in some unique situations, health authorities may consider in-school clinics, depending on local needs.
“We’ve heard clearly from families that parents want to be there when their child is vaccinated, and children want their parents there too,” the ministry said in a statement.
Teri Mooring, president of the BC Teachers’ Federation, said Thursday that an inclusive lens is needed when looking at how families are able to access vaccines.
“For some families, having their children vaccinated in school is going to be convenient for them,” she said.
“In some situations, the schools are going to make the most sense and they shouldn’t be discounted. In other situations, they might be a community centre or some other place where it’s reasonable and accessible to families.”
In Ontario, where shots are already being administered to children, vaccines are being given in community clinics, hospitals and pharmacies, as well as school clinics. Schools are mostly being used as vaccination sites after hours and on weekends so that parents and guardians can be present.
Officials in Alberta said earlier this week that they are not considering in-school clinics at the moment because they weren’t successful for teenagers.
“If we distributed out to all schools, there’s a risk if we don’t have the uptake, there could be some could be some wastage,” the province’s Health Minister Jason Copping said Tuesday.
But Alberta may revisit the approach later once demand decreases, he added.
Not having schools as an option was criticized by Sarah Hoffman, the NDP critic for education.
“Making it available in schools doesn’t mean that that needs to be the only option that parents could choose, but by refusing to make it available, it makes it much harder for parents who are already working long hours, who maybe don’t have access to a car, who have lots of pressures, and the government’s making it more difficult for them to be able to get their children this protection,” she said in an interview.
Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang had said public health does not have the capacity to offer shots at schools. But the province’s Liberal Party is urging the government to make that option available.
“That’s absolutely an important option,” Liberal Leader Iain Rankin said in a news release.
“But this shouldn’t be an ‘either or’ scenario – this is about combatting the spread of COVID-19 in our schools by making the shot as widely available as possible to Nova Scotia families, including in-school clinics.”
The Manitoba government said Thursday that work is underway to set up clinics in schools that are interested in participating, and that it may take different forms with different times, depending on the schools and how they want to participate.
The Saskatchewan government says clinics will be delivered in more than 100 schools, but details will be left up to each school.
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