Sask. Opposition calls on province to expand vaccination leave to parents taking kids to get vaccinated
NDP would also like consent forms to be an option for parents
Saskatchewan's Opposition is calling on the province to expand vaccination leave for parents who need to leave work to take their children to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.
Opposition NDP Leader Ryan Meili and health critic Vicki Mowat called Friday afternoon for the government to create a proactive plan to remove barriers for parents so that more people can get vaccinated.
"The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 2020 provides at least three consecutive hours of paid leave for employees to access a vaccination. The regulation does not apply to parents taking children for their vaccination at this time," the Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety said in an email statement.
Mowat said that expanding the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations to provide three hours of paid leave to vaccinate children would allow parents more flexibility and ensure that the vaccination clinics are not overwhelmed during peak non-work hours.
"We're hearing from parents that some of them are having a hard time finding time in their busy lives to get their children down to the clinics to get their first dose," Mowat said.
Mowat said the move would ensure "the vaccination uptake continues," which is crucial given that about one-third of present cases in the province are in children five to 11.
Reducing barriers and increasing access
The Opposition also noted that the government opting for parents to be physically present for their child's vaccination, rather than using consent forms, presents more barriers.
Meili said it is important to reach children where they are and schools offer that opportunity.
"If my kids are going to school and I can send a consent form for them to get their shot at school, I'd be very up for it," Meili said.
"We've got 40,000 people in Saskatchewan who got their first shot and not their second. What's in the way of that? If there's anything we can do to reduce those barriers and increase protection, let's do it."
Meili said expansion of vaccination leave for parents will mean more kids getting vaccinated, which would further alleviate the burden health-care is facing, especially in rural Saskatchewan.
"I was in Wilkie yesterday and there was a 'no emergency services' sign there, which is a pretty bad sign for that community. This means people can't get the care they need," he said.
"It doesn't matter where you live. You need health care to be available."
Parents can book appointments on the Saskatchewan Health Authority website or through the SaskVax phone line.
By week's end, the province is expected have more than 112,000 vaccine doses available, nearly enough for all children in the five to 11 age group to receive their first dose.