Manitoba school-based vaccine clinics to start next week with permission required for those under 16

Manitoba schools will host COVID-19 vaccine clinics next week to help ensure that eligible young people have an opportunity to get immunized.

Separate pop-up clinics scheduled for Neepawa, Prawda, Winnipeg this week

A 14-year-old gets the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a high school in New York. Manitoba schools will host vaccine clinics starting next week, the province says. (Mark Lennihan/The Associated Press)

Manitoba schools will host COVID-19 vaccine clinics next week to help ensure that eligible young people have an opportunity to get immunized.

Vaccinations will be offered during school hours and in some cases, clinics will continue to operate outside school hours for all members of the community, the province said in a news release on Monday.

Immunization teams will attend all schools with students who were born on or before Dec. 31, 2009, to provide first and second doses, starting in areas with lower vaccine uptake, to help reduce any barriers to immunization, the Protect MB website says.

Among those age 12 to 17, nearly 73 per cent have had one dose of the vaccine and 65 per cent have had both, which is behind the average for the province, Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of Manitoba's vaccine implementation task force, said during an online news conference on Monday.

"This youngest cohort was the last group to become eligible, and so it does make sense their numbers are a bit behind the province as a whole. However, it is critical that we provide this group with every opportunity to protect themselves against COVID-19," she said.

"Getting vaccinated protects youth. It protects their families, including younger siblings who may not be able to get the vaccine at this time. It also protects their friends and it protects their community. It helps keep our schools safer."

Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead of Manitoba's vaccine implementation task force, says public health officials are working to ensure parents are comfortable and well-informed as vaccine clinics set to start in schools. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

A few of the clinics will open in schools around Wednesday, Reimer said. Each regional health authority is responsible for setting up the schedule determining which schools have clinics when, as well as answering some questions about what to expect, she said.

Parents and guardians who want to be immunized with their children or attend their children's immunizations can go to the pop-up clinic outside of school hours, Reimer said.

Parental consent

There have been some concerns from parents about their kids being vaccinated without parental consent, Reimer said.

People younger than 16 must have written consent from a parent or guardian in order to get the jab at school during school hours.

However, those 16 and older are considered mature minors under provincial legislation and can sign their own consent forms. 

Children who are not yet 16 and don't have written consent from a parent or guardian can return after school with a parent, or go through an informed consent process with a medical professional — the same process that's currently done at vaccine supersites and other pop-up clinics.

"This is how we can keep COVID out of our schools — by making the vaccine available and accessible," Reimer said.

The in-school clinics are expected to run for four to six weeks.

The province also announced a number of pop-up clinics happening this week around the province.

One is at the Prawda Shell gas station, off the Trans-Canada Highway near Hadashville, Man., from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday.

Another pop-up clinic will be in Neepawa, Man., at Yellowhead Centre Hall at 175 Mountain Ave. on Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m.

There will also be two in Winnipeg.

One will be hosted by Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre and the Aboriginal Health and Wellness Centre near 94 McGregor St. on Tuesday from noon to 6 p.m.

The other will be hosted by the Mex Y Can Association of Manitoba in Provencher Park, 271 de la Cathedrale Ave., on Saturday from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Booster shots

Last week, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) announced it's recommending giving third doses of COVID-19 vaccines to certain immunocompromised people.

Reimer said Monday that the province is finalizing its own recommendations and will provide details on its plan for third doses later this week.

NACI still hasn't reached a decision on whether they'll recommend providing booster shots to the broader population.

As of Monday, 83.6 per cent of eligible Manitobans have received one dose of the vaccine and 78.7 per cent have had two, according to the online immunization dashboard.