The Saskatchewan Health Authority launched its program on Monday to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to children 12 and older in schools across the province.
Saskatchewan is the first to launch a province-wide school vaccination program.
Over the next week, SHA will bring vaccines to students in 43 cities and towns across the province, including Saskatoon, Moose Jaw, Swift Current and Lloydminster.
Getting vaccinated under this program is voluntary. Parental consent is required, but those 13 and older can legally choose to be vaccinated themselves. During this time, young people can still get vaccinated in other clinics and pharmacies.
Children in this age group only receive the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine.
Rashawn Taniskishayinew, a 14-year-old grade 9 student at Scott Collegiate in Regina, is the first in his family to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Previously, he had to stay home from school for over a month when he fell ill with COVID-19. But today he is back in class and vaccinated.
Taniskishayinew says his father relies on his English skills, and so far he has struggled to make appointments for his family.
“I usually do all the paperwork at home, so it was good to have a school to do it, so it would be easier to get in and out instead of having to bother to make an appointment.” Taniskishayinew said.
Aliyah Prive, an 18-year-old Scott Collegiate grade 12 student, said she was too busy with school and preparing for her post-secondary future to drive to a clinic or make an appointment, then get vaccinated. Monday at school was convenient.
“At first, I was a little scared because I’m scared of needles. But as I sat down, people made sure that I was calm and they made sure that I didn’t move or flinch … And it was actually It was pretty easy. It was like a second, ”Prive said.
Prive said she hopes the vaccine will lead everyone to be themselves, maskless and happy. The choice to be vaccinated also concerned his family.
“It makes it easier to protect my family from COVID. Especially with my little nephew. He’s only two years old.”
“It’s extremely effective”
Colin Furness, infection control specialist at the University of Toronto, said the school vaccination plan was good.
“I like it as a strategy. It’s extremely effective and it’s extremely effective,” Furness said.
“Trying to find thousands or tens of thousands of families to find the time to make an appointment, to go to a clinic, to do that… these are all obstacles.
“For some families, there is hesitation about the vaccine. For others, it is just a simple logistical difficulty.”
Furness said these issues will often be addressed by arranging vaccination in schools, and the program ensures that as many people as possible are reached as quickly as possible.
“In a lot of cases, the people most at risk are at the end of the line for vaccination. That’s how it works when you set it up as something where it’s up to people to figure out what to do,” Furness said.
“So the idea that we could do it in schools, it embraces fairness. That said everyone is going to have a chance to get this vaccine under similar conditions. That’s a good thing.”
Some families will be included
The SHA said it had prioritized high schools and some inner-city and more vulnerable schools for vaccination clinics. Health officials say some schools will also offer vaccines to families of students after office hours.
Not all schools will have clinics, but SHA has implemented a “central school model” system, which would make a school in one area the vaccination clinic.
“This means that other schools in neighboring rural and northern communities can go to some of these school centers. [for vaccinations]”said Sheila Anderson, provincial vaccine manager for SHA.
Anderson said the SHA set up vaccination clinics in schools across the province from June 2 to 23.
Some schools will take the “field visit approach” to immunizing students who wish to be immunized, doing things like taking eligible children to community clinics.