Some western Quebec elementary students can get COVID-19 vaccine at school clinics
Outaouais health authority says detailed plan for children as young as 5 coming next week
Some schools in western Quebec will host vaccination clinics as part of the provincewide effort to provide at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to every child between the ages of five and 11 before the winter holiday.
The Western Quebec School Board says it has been planning for Health Canada's approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for younger children for months, along with the two local health authorities in its catchment area.
Director General Mike Dubeau said the English-language board hopes school clinics will help get the vaccine into all areas of its catchment area, which is twice the size of Nova Scotia.
"We do have some remote, rural schools so having the vaccination centres right in the school is ideal," Dubeau said.
Dubeau said schools will get their doses a couple of weeks after centralized clinics are made available so parents can register and take their children there in person.
"We're not anticipating that 100 per cent of our students will be vaccinated in school, but we are prepared," he said.
Teachers to accompany students
Dubeau said there will be dedicated areas in the school's gyms for public health nurses to administer doses and monitor recovery while staff accompany and comfort students.
Suzanne Tremblay, president of the Syndicat de l'enseignement de l'Outaouais, said there will also be situations where school staff will bring students to public health vaccination centres such as Gatineau's Palais de congres.
During the high school vaccination campaign, parents accompanied their children to vaccination centres in most cases, Tremblay said.
"We think in elementary school, there will also be a lot of parents who want to be with their children for vaccinations," she said in French.
Tremblay said once younger children are vaccinated at a similar proportion to high school students, fewer classes wil be closed and some health measures such as mask-wearing will be relaxed leading to better in-class learning.
Details to come next week, CISSSO says
The Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l'Outaouais (CISSSO) said it will provide details on the vaccine rollout next week after the Quebec Immunization Committee provides approval.
Dr. Brigitte Pinard, the director of public health for the authority, said in the meantime educational resources will be made available to parents to help guide them in their decisions.
"For the next coming days, I think it's very important that parents become informed about the access, but also about the reasons why we want to vaccinate the children," Pinard said.
WATCH: Dr. Brigitte Pinard on 'friendly' setting for vaccinating children:
More than 40 per cent of recent cases of COVID-19 have been children in the age range of five to 11 and all five current outbreaks in Outaouais schools are elementary schools, Pinard said.
She said 76 per cent of youth, age 12 to 17, are fully vaccinated and that has greatly reduced the number of cases and outbreaks in high schools during the fourth wave.
She said nurses within the Outaouais with experience providing immunization for children will also make the process easier for families.
"There's some efforts being made to make the setting as friendly as possible," Pinard said.