The Prince Albert Catholic and Saskatchewan Rivers School Division will both begin hosting COVID-19 vaccination clinics in their schools beginning next week. The province announced the measure on May 18 and school divisions have been working with the Saskatchewan Health Authority on logistics of delivering vaccines in schools.
“It’s an SHA initiative and program that we are supporting access by hosting it in our schools and providing some administrative support,” Saskatchewan Rivers School Division director of education Robert Bratvold said.
Catholic Division director of education Lorel Trumier explained that vaccinations are voluntary.
Families with questions are advised to go to local public health or the SHA for answers.
“We are obviously just providing a location for them to do that,” she added.
“It’s providing an opportunity for our families to articulate if they want to have their children vaccinated that they can do that on school site so that can get done and what the families would need to go through to go to a vaccine drive thru clinic or wait for appointments. It is an opportunity that is being provided from the Saskatchewan Health Authority,”
In their announcement, the province explained that there will be more than 90,000 vaccines in total for individuals 12 years of age and older. Students aged 12 to 17 are only approved to receive Pfizer vaccine at this time and plans will vary by city or town and go all the way down to school level. It will be conducted over three weeks starting at the start of June. The clinics will be operating in schools Monday to Friday during the regular school week.
Bratvold explained that the SHA will be using space in the schools and providing some infrastructure including tables and chairs along with the space and using their communication infrastructure.
“We have the space and we also have very good connections with our families so the information gets out to the families so they know the vaccine clinic is going to be in their school, who is eligible and how the whole process works how consent forms and how those sorts of documents are collected and cared for and all of that kind of stuff,” Bratvold said.
He explained how when it became clear how the vaccines would begin to roll out in schools there were forms with frequently asked questions about how it would operate sent out.
“This week we sent out more detailed information to all of our eligible students and parents, a letter from health and the consent form and a link for further information about the vaccine and …those types of things. We would have sent that out to all of our schools by today.”
Bratvold and Trumier each emphasized the voluntary nature of the program. Bratvold compared it to the usual vaccinations for Grade 6 and Grade 8 students that occur each year.
“It’s a similar process but obviously at a larger scale and more attention to it socially in our communities,” he explained.
The SHA has been leading the initiative.
“Schools are not responsible for it. We have just been providing a location for them to do that,” Trumier said.
Schools hosting vaccine clinics in Sask. Rivers will be determined by student populations and those families in smaller schools will be given directions for where to get vaccinations. There will not be any mixing of cohorts by sending students from one school to another.
“Health will phone the families and say you can book an appointment at this pharmacy or this clinic but we’re not sending kids from one school to another school generally,” Bratvold explained.
“Nearly every school is going to have a clinic. Families will know how to access the vaccine if they want it,” he added.
Bratvold reminded people that just because vaccinations are occurring the other aspects of COVID-19 prevention should not take a back seat.
“Don’t give up on your physical distancing, don’t give up on wearing your mask, don’t give up on your hand sanitizing, don’t give up on your self-monitoring and staying home when you are sick. Those things are still crucial,” Bratvold said.
The Catholic Division is also encouraging parents to seek vaccinations at other locations.
“We are encouraging families if they want to be with their children to go to a pharmacy or a drive thru or walk in clinic instead where they can have more time and talk to the health authority,” Trumier said.
On Wednesday Saskatchewan Rivers reported cases in five schools including PACI, Carlton and Queen Mary in Prince Albert, WP Sandin in Shellbrook and Canwood and Bratvold was surprised by the turn of events.
“I couldn’t believe that we had the odd case over the last two weeks and then all of a sudden there is five in one day,” he said.
“It was not a good day in lots of ways,” he added.