Saint John-area mom calls for more transparency about COVID cases in children

·4 min read
Theresa and Brian Fitzgerald of Quispamsis decide day by day whether to send  their children, Amelia, four, and Colin, seven, to school, based on COVID-19 numbers. (Submitted by Theresa Fitzgerald - image credit)
Theresa and Brian Fitzgerald of Quispamsis decide day by day whether to send their children, Amelia, four, and Colin, seven, to school, based on COVID-19 numbers. (Submitted by Theresa Fitzgerald - image credit)

A Saint John-area mother is calling on the government to be more transparent about the number of COVID-19 cases in children in New Brunswick.

Theresa Fitzgerald, of Quispamsis, says parents should have all the information available to make the best informed decisions they can about whether they want to continue to send their children to school, especially if they're under 12 and too young to be vaccinated.

"There's been, I think, an alarming number of cases in school so far and we're only, you know, less than a month into the school year," she said.

Since Sept. 7, 53 schools and 24 early learning and child-care facilities have had confirmed cases of COVID-19, Public Health reported Wednesday. The total number of cases has not been released, nor has the number at each school, nor the breakdown of students, teachers and staff.

Fitzgerald, a mother of two, thinks the government should reveal how many of the new, unvaccinated cases in the province each day involve children under 12.

"My concern is that the way that it's presented this campaign, that now it's a 'pandemic of the unvaccinated,' I worry dismisses the fact that so many of these cases are in kids who just don't have the option. And as parents, that's really scary."

She thinks providing the data would help raise awareness that children are the most vulnerable right now, much like the elderly were at the beginning of the pandemic.

On Sept. 1, when asked by CBC News why the province doesn't break down the numbers to say how many of the unvaccinated cases are too young to be vaccinated or can't be vaccinated for medical or other reasons, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell replied: "That's a great question. And I'll take that back to my team."

As of Wednesday, the information is still not being provided.

Government of New Brunswick
Government of New Brunswick

It can be extrapolated, in part, from the COVID-19 dashboard daily testing data, if people are willing to keep track every day and do some math.

Under the tests by age group category, the number of positive cases for those under 10 and between 10 and 19 are provided.

On Wednesday, for example, the number of positive tests for children under 10 shows as 399, and on Tuesday, it was 385, which means 14 of the new cases announced Wednesday were in children under 10.

Similarly, the number of positive tests in those aged 10 to 19 on Wednesday is 447, and on Tuesday, it was 431, so 16 of the new cases announced Wednesday were in children aged 10 to 19.

The numbers are not broken down into an under-12 category, however, which is the age group not yet approved for vaccination by Health Canada.

Early last school year, Fitzgerald's husband Brian started to mine the dashboard to create his own database so they can quickly access the data, track that numbers and decide day-by-day whether they want to send their children Amelia, four, and Colin, seven, to school.

Fitzgerald contends it shouldn't be this hard for parents.

"Even the language that [the school districts] use around 'operational response days;' they don't come right out and say there's cases in the schools, even though we all know that that's what's happening."

She also believes the government should release more information about how cases in schools are being transmitted.

Although the Department of Health confirmed earlier this month that student-to-student transmission has occurred, the number and locations has not been released.

"So parents don't have all the information we need in order to feel confident sending kids to school," she said.

Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE submitted initial trial data for their COVID-19 vaccine in children aged 5 to 11 to U.S. regulators on Tuesday and said they would make a formal request for emergency use authorization in the coming weeks.

Pfizer Canada said it is preparing to make a submission to Health Canada on the potential authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine for use in children aged five to 11. However, the company didn't provide any timelines on when exactly that would happen.

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