N.W.T. launches voluntary at-home COVID-19 screening program for children 5 to 11
12 schools in Yellowknife, Hay River, Behchokǫ̀, Inuvik, Ndilǫ and Dettah are part of the program
In an effort to protect sudents aged five to 11 who cannot be vaccinated against COVID-19 in communities where the risk for infection is higher, the N.W.T. government is launching a voluntary at-home screening program.
The program will be available in 12 schools in Yellowknife, Hay River, Behchokǫ̀, Inuvik, Ndilǫ and Dettah.
Each week, 10 per cent of students — whose parents signed them up to be in the program — in a class will be selected to get a rapid test.
The At Home Abbott Panbio Rapid Response will be administered by the parents or the students themselves, according to a news release from the government of the Northwest Territories, and will involve a swab, which will provide an immediate result.
The results will then be reported online or in paper form to the school, which will strip identifying information away from the results, and then forwarded to the Department of Health and Social Services.
"Any positive test results will require confirmation at a health centre or COVID screening site and students will be required to isolate while they await confirmation of the test results," reads the release.
Prevent further COVID-19 transmission
The news release stated the goal of the program is to prevent any further transmission of COVID-19 by maintaining ongoing testing of asymptomatic children and detect any early infection.
Dr. Kami Kandola, the territory's chief public health officer, said in the release that the program is an important step in the plan for students to return to school safely.
Kandola ordered schools closed to in-person learning in Behchokǫ̀ on Sept. 9 and in Yellowknife, Ndilǫ and Dettah on Sept. 13, as COVID-19 cases in those communities were rising. Last week, during a news conference, she said she plans to lift the restrictions she put in place for those communities on Oct. 22, and allow schools to reopen on Oct. 25.
"This non-invasive test, performed at home, will help keep our children safe from a potential outbreak while ensuring in-class learning is maximized," said Kandola in the news release.
"I encourage parents and guardians to enrol in the home test monitoring program and reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, concerns or feedback about our plans moving forward."
Health Minister Julie Green said if participation in the program is high enough, the territorial government is hopeful it will help keep schools open to in-person learning.
The release states that the program will only be offered if enough parents volunteer their children to participate in it so that 10 per cent of a class can be tested every week.
The program will be in place until a COVID-19 vaccine is available to children aged five to 11, and that uptake is high enough. The release did not state what percentage of children in that age group would need to be immunized against COVID-19 for the program to no longer be in place.
Earlier this month, Pfizer and its partner BioNTech submitted preliminary data from their trial for a COVID-19 vaccine for kids to Health Canada. It is said it is expecting a formal filing from the company for the authorization of a vaccine for children by mid-October.