The success of in-person schooling this fall hinges largely on vaccination rates among students and staff, says Chatham-Kent’s medical officer of health.
“I am concerned about it. If we can get them vaccinated that would be much better,” says Dr. David Colby about the participants ready to refill Ontario’s long dormant school buildings in September. “The virus has the potential to be easily transmitted in indoor groups of unvaccinated people. And that’s exactly what an in-school experience would represent.”
The Pfizer vaccine is still the only one approved for children aged 12-17. July 9 there was 47 per cent of this population who’d gotten their first dose.
But nothing has been approved for kids 11 and under yet. Health Canada is continuing testing but there’s no definitive word when a final result will be available.
“They’re not going to approve these vaccines unless they are proven to be safe and effective in those age groups. That is what they do and we just have to be patient and wait for them to analyze the data and make that pronouncement,” says Colby. “It’s anybody’s guess when that could come, I’ve heard through scientific circles that it could be soon. I’ve also heard that it probably won’t be till the fall. So with this conflicting information I just can’t say when.”
Urgency is increasing given a shift in dominancy to the highly contagious Delta strain of the virus. “It’s a new ballgame with the Delta variant. It’s so much more transmissible. In Israel they have had a very large school related outbreak among unvaccinated children in school,” says Colby.
Unvaccinated children who contracted the Delta variant were behind a rapid rise in Israeli cases in recent weeks. While COVID risks are fairly low in children compared to adults, the big fear with kids coming down with the virus is transmissibility.
“Of course this will trickle to any other unvaccinated people in society and we worry about that.” says Colby.
There’s currently no mandatory vaccine requirement for teachers to return to the classroom. Colby says he’d like to see something enacted but it would be up to higher powers.
“That’s a legislative issue and there are a lot of factors that go into that with regard to personal choice. It really boils down to one’s philosophy on those kinds of matters."
"I personally think that people that have the potential through their workplaces to act as vehicles of infection to the vulnerable should as a condition of their employment have to be vaccinated,” he says.
Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent