With more COVID-19 cases reported in New Brunswick schools and child-care facilities Thursday, a father of two elementary school students says more information should be readily available about the virus in New Brunswick.
“Far, far too little specific information being provided, especially in the younger ages, especially those unable to be vaccinated,” says John Gunn, of Riverview, N.B.
The province reports positive tests by age on its data dashboard and classifies the youngest data as under-10, but only provides information for people 19 and under in news releases.
That’s why Gunn, a father of two kids — one almost 5-years-old and the other, 7 — calculates information daily to see how many new cases are reported among the youngest demographic.
But he still believes information should be provided for those under 12, most of whom are not eligible for a vaccine. New Brunswick previously expanded eligibility to allow 11-year-olds who are turning 12 this year to get vaccinated.
On Monday, Department of Education spokesperson Flavio Nienow told Global News that 27 schools across the province were, at the time, “currently impacted by COVID-19 cases.”
Since then, 17 schools have reported cases, including some that were previously impacted, according to provincial news releases.
Thursday, Public Health spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane wrote in an emailed statement, “as of September 23, there are 106 (18.5%) active cases among those not eligible for vaccination due to their age.”
Still, the vast majority of cases are among unvaccinated adults.
But Dr. Lisa Barrett, an infectious disease physician in Halifax, says as community cases climb, so too will school cases.
“As virus in the community goes higher, school cases — and don’t forget this is people, kids who are getting COVID-19 — will go higher,” she says.
“Although it’s rare for kids to get very, very sick, some of them will and that percentage will become more numbers of cases if we let virus go too high.”
New Brunswick Public Health said Wednesday no one under-19 was hospitalized with COVID-19.
Barrett agrees, when possible, it would be beneficial to include data for the youth who aren’t eligible for vaccination.
“It would be nice to know what the case number is in that population of folks because to the point, people who are unvaccinated regardless spread virus more easily than those who are vaccinated,” she says.
“It can give some additional information to people in the community, however I will say that I always take the advice of Public Health.”
She says if that level of detail can’t be provided, school outbreaks are important to hear about.
Officials in Nova Scotia don’t publicly share when school cases are confirmed but New Brunswick does.
However, Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of Health, previously acknowledged the importance of sharing under-12 case data with the broad community.
“It is an absolutely legitimate piece that we need to break that down,” he said on Sept. 8
As a result, Nova Scotia now shares the cumulative case count for those under 12 online.
Barrett says present variants are more dangerous and transmittable.
“Delta variant is dominant in Canada right now, along with its nearby cousin, the Delta-like variant, both of which have the ability to spread exquisitely well and to cause more disease,” she says.
“And so not just among young people, but among all people in Canada right now, this more dangerous, more transmittable variant is common.”
Barrett says the Pfizer vaccine could be approved for 5 to 11-year-olds by Christmas, but warns if there is only one producer at the beginning of approval, there could be supply issues in the early stages.
Meanwhile, Gunn has been keeping an eye on clinical trials as “analysis from hundreds of experts.”
“It’s really important to understand what the risks are on the side of vaccination, but what I think is missing is a true understanding of what the risks are on the side of opting not to vaccinate,” he says.
“It’s impossible to make an appropriate risk decision if you don’t know what the accurate risks are on both sides.”
Gunn says he “firmly believes in vaccination” and is looking ahead to when eligibility could expand.
“As much as my children ask daily when they’ll be able to be vaccinated so they can protect the community, I have nothing but plans to bring them for their vaccinations the moment they are eligible and it’s approved by Health Canada.”