With youth between the ages of 12 and 17 now able to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) is calling on health officials to implement in-school immunization clinics throughout the province.
On Thursday afternoon, the BC government announced its next steps in rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine. Eligible youth can now register online or by phone through BC’s Get Vaccinated system or have a parent, guardian, or trusted caretaker help them.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says that adults who already have an immunization appointment can bring youth to receive a COVID-19 vaccine with them.
The BCTF, however, wants in-school vaccination clinics as part of the rollout, especially in some of the province’s hardest-hit regions. The federation notes that approximately half of BC’s students between 12 and 18-years-old reside in the Fraser Health region, which is “where the highest number of school exposure notices are consistently being issued.”
“Reducing barriers is essential to the success of BC’s vaccination program,” Teri Mooring, BCTF President, says in a statement.
“We’ve seen the province do it with pop-up clinics in high-transmission neighbourhoods, so it’s unclear to us why they are not extending that logic to their approach to vaccinating students.”
Mooring says that some pros of having in-school clinics include large gyms and cafeterias that could be used for immunization, staff being familiar with parental consent forms, and students already being at school, to begin with.
“Nobody has to take time off school or work and make the trip to a community clinic if we bring the vaccines to them.”
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Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry was asked why the province opted to have youth visit community clinics, rather than bring the vaccinations directly to schools. During a live press conference, she said that one of the main reasons was accessibility and families with kids who attend different schools.
“There are two main reasons,” Henry explained. “One we heard that families want to go together and they want their children of different ages to be able to go together — that often means they’re at different schools.”
She also noted that most of BC’s public health staff was still very engaged with immunization clinics and managing COVID-19 cases, contacts, and outbreaks.
“It takes a lot of resources to go into every single school in a very short period of time, and that would not have been able to be done equitably across, especially some of our larger health authorities.”
Henry stressed that BC’s immunization clinics are “established and ready to ramp up to have families” visit.