Sask. first province to give COVID-19 vaccines to those aged 12-plus inside schools

·4 min read
Aliyah Prive, 18, getting her COVID-19 vaccine at Scott Collegiate in Regina on Monday.  (Bonnie Allen/CBC  - image credit)
Aliyah Prive, 18, getting her COVID-19 vaccine at Scott Collegiate in Regina on Monday. (Bonnie Allen/CBC - image credit)

The Saskatchewan Health Authority began its program designed to give COVID-19 vaccines to those 12 and older inside schools across the province Monday.

Saskatchewan is the first to roll out a province-wide school vaccine program.

Over the next week the SHA will bring vaccines to students in 43 cities and towns across the province, including Saskatoon, Moose Jaw, Swift Current and Lloydminster.

Getting vaccinated through this program is voluntary. Parents are asked for consent, but those 13 and older can legally choose to get the vaccine on their own. Meanwhile, young people can still get the vaccine at other clinics and pharmacies.

Children in this age group are only being given the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine.

Rashawn Taniskishayinew, an 14-year-old Grade 9 student at Scott Collegiate in Regina, is the first in his family to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Previously, he had to stay home from school for more than a month when he became sick with COVID-19. But today he is back and class and vaccinated.

Taniskishayinew says his father relies on his English skills, and so far he has had trouble booking appointments for family.

"I usually do all the paperwork in my house so it was good to have a school do it so then it would be easier to go in and come out instead of having to go through the trouble of making an appointment," said Taniskishayinew.

Rashawn Taniskishayinew, 14, is the first in his family to get a COVID-19 vaccine. 
Rashawn Taniskishayinew, 14, is the first in his family to get a COVID-19 vaccine. (CBC News)

Aliyah Prive, an 18-year-old Grade 12 student at Scott Collegiate, said she was too busy with school and preparing for her post-high school future to get to a drive-thru clinic or book an appointment, so getting vaccinated at her school Monday was convenient.

"At first, I was a little bit scared because I have a fear of needles. But as I sat down, the people made sure I was calm and they made sure that I didn't move or flinch ... And it was actually pretty easy. It was like a second," said Prive.

Prive said she hopes the vaccine will lead to everyone being themselves, mask-free and happy. The choice to get the vaccine was also about her family.

"It makes it easier to protect my family from COVID. Especially with my little nephew. He's only two."

'It's enormously efficient'

Colin Furness, an infection control specialist with the University of Toronto, said the school vaccination plan is a good one.

"I love it as a strategy. It's enormously efficient and it's enormously effective," said Furness.

"Trying to huckster thousands or tens of thousands of families to find time to book an appointment, to go to a clinic, to get this done ... those are all barriers.

"For some families there's vaccine hesitancy. For others it's just sheer logistical difficulty."

Epidemiologist Colin Furness with the University of Toronto says that Saskatchewan's school vaccination program is effective and efficient.
Epidemiologist Colin Furness with the University of Toronto says that Saskatchewan's school vaccination program is effective and efficient. (Evan Mitsui/CBC News)

Furness said that those issues will often be solved by hosting vaccination in schools and that the program ensures as many people as possible are being reached as quickly as possible.

"In many cases, people who are most at risk are at the back of the line for vaccination. That's how it works when you set it up as something where the onus is on people to figure out what to do," said Furness.

"So the idea that we could do this in schools, it embraces equity. It says that that everyone's going to get a chance to get this vaccine under similar conditions. It's a great thing."

Some families will be included

The SHA said it has 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 hours.

Not every school will have clinics, but the SHA has a "hub school model" system in place, which would make one school in an area the vaccination clinic.

"That means other schools in neighbouring communities in rural and northern areas may travel to some of these school hubs [for vaccinations]," said Sheila Anderson, provincial vaccine lead for the SHA.

Kaylee Belanger, whi is 15 and in Grade 10, gets her COVID-19 vaccine at Scott Collegiate in Regina on Monday.
Kaylee Belanger, whi is 15 and in Grade 10, gets her COVID-19 vaccine at Scott Collegiate in Regina on Monday. (Bonnie Allen/CBC)

Anderson said the SHA has set up school vaccination clinics across the province to run from June 2 through to June 23.

Some schools will take the "field trip approach" to vaccinating students that wish to be immunized, doing things like walking eligible children down to community clinics.

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