Plans are already well under way for vaccination clinics for the age 5 to 11 age group in the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division following the provinces announcement on Monday.
Although the announcement was made on Monday, Sask. Rivers Education Director Robert Bratvold said they needed to wait until Tuesday to hammer out the final details.
“We actually have some pretty good plans in place,” Bratvold said. “We have got vaccine clinics in all of our schools in Prince Albert, (and) we are working to get more clinics into our rural areas. Health just didn’t have the staff to do all of our schools, so we are still working on that.”
The clinics are voluntary and provided by the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA).
Parent consent is required for any child to receive the vaccine, and consent forms have been sent by the province to the division.
The SHA does not have enough staff to provide clinics in all schools, but the division is still working with them to have clinics in more locations. There are also public clinics listed on the SHA website for any student who does not attend a host school.
“We had the older student vaccine (for those ages 12-17) available in the spring,” Bratvold explained. “We had that in all of our schools that had that age group of kids in it and so it was a little bit more consistent. Back then, health had access to a larger labour pool, so there are some limitations.”
The clinics in Sask. Rivers schools will not begin until next week, but parents at host schools will be receiving information ahead of them over the coming week. Clinics will begin on Nov. 29 and continue on subsequent days. Parents will receive information depending on when clinics begin.
“We will be getting some information a week in advance,” Bratvold explained. “It has that consent form that is required, and time and schedules. Most of our schools have vaccine clinics in the afternoon and then extending into the evening.”
The schedules are made to accommodate parent schedules.
A letter to parents from the SHA states that the SHA is working with school divisions to arrange for the administration of a pediatric dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine starting in late November. Students born in 2009 or earlier will still be eligible.
“The delivery plan will also include participating pharmacies and SHA clinics,” the letter reads. “Providing immunization to students is consistent with new national recommendations and authorization by Health Canada. The COVID-19 vaccine is voluntary.
“Children are at lower risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19. However, to minimize the spread of COVID-19 it is important to immunize as many eligible children safely and as quickly as possible.”
Any student Grade 4 or younger is required to have a parent or guardian present during the vaccination. Students in Grade 5 and 6 just require the consent form.
Province to introduce legislation to keep protesters away from schools
The Government of Saskatchewan is also introducing legislation to protect teachers, staff and students while accessing schools. This will ensure families can access a school without harassment while vaccines are rolled out for kids 5-11.
“Similar to the protections provided for patients, staff, and families accessing our hospitals, it is important that our children, parents, teachers and staff are able to access schools in the province without fear of interference or intimidation,” Education Minister Dustin Duncan said in a release
“In particular it is important to ensure our children do not feel scared or threatened.”
A 50-metre safe access zone will prevent sidewalk protests or interference near schools that could potentially cause obstructions, delays or harassment for people entering and leaving school properties. There is also regulation-making authority to extend zones up to 150-metre zones.
Lawful labour picketing will still be allowed within the safe access zones. Like hospital safe access zones, the safe zone provisions for schools will also automatically expire two years from the coming into force dates.
Bratvold explained that he did not have background on the province’s decision.
“This is not something that was a topic of discussion with school divisions as far as I am aware of,” he said.