The Saskatchewan government is requiring parents to accompany their children aged five to 12 for their COVID-19 vaccination.
For students in grades 5 and 6, the policy is a departure from usual in-school vaccination processes. For other vaccines, students in these grades are able to bring a consent form and get their shot without a parent present.
The SHA sent out a letter to parents and guardians in Prince Albert on Nov. 22 informing them of a change in policy requiring all students to be accompanied by a guardian to receive their vaccination.
On Tuesday, Health Minister Paul Merriman said the COVID-19 vaccine is unique because of the attention surrounding it.
"As opposed to other vaccines, this one has a lot of misinformation around it," Merriman said.
"We want to make sure the child is getting the vaccine and the parent is comfortable. We don't want to ever give the perception we're giving the COVID-19 vaccine behind parents' backs. That's why we're asking them to be there."
Education Minister Dustin Duncan defended the policy when asked during question period on Wednesday, pointing to the 23,440 vaccinations done since children five to 11 became eligible.
"We're a week into the program and that 23,000 doesn't include the last two days of vaccinations, so the number is going to be higher than that."
Duncan said the province has vaccinated 20 per cent of children five to 11, which he said is the highest rate in Canada.
In Saskatchewan, children 13 to 17 are considered mature minors and can consent to being vaccinated without parental approval.
The Opposition has asked for parents to receive paid leave from work to get their child vaccinated.
In March, the provincial government amended legislation to allow for three hours of paid time off for a worker to get vaccinated.
Last week, Minister of Labour Don Morgan said the government would consider extending its three-hour paid leave policy to parents, but said Tuesday it was no longer under consideration.
The government has said there are many clinics available, including in the evening, for parents to take their children for vaccination.
Opposition says policy creates 'barriers'
Opposition education critic Carla Beck said Wednesday that requiring parents to be present for vaccinations in lieu of a consent form for those in grades 5 and 6 creates "barriers" to vaccination.
"It is one of those tools that could allow parents who otherwise are not able to get their children to a clinic or have to work during the day, to do as they do with other vaccines and get their children vaccinated at school."
On Tuesday, public health nurse Carolyn Brost Strom was at the legislature expressing concerns about the change and how it affected her child.
She said her child was initially eligible to be vaccinated at school with a consent form and no parent present, but that policy was changed to require parents to be present.