The Edmonton Public School Board is concerned about vaccination rates for kids between five and 11 years old. The board is now asking the Alberta government to make it easier to get a pediatric COVID-19 vaccine.
In a motion created by vice-chair Nathan Ip, it said in the last seven weeks, 39 per cent of that age group has received one dose of the vaccines, while four per cent has received both doses.
Ip said part of the issue is that getting to designated vaccination clinics can be a barrier for families, whether it’s transportation issues or finding time to take off work.
“Barriers to access will inevitably result in lower vaccination rates and that’s the opposite of what public health authorities want, and we as a school authority want the health and safety of our families,” Ip said.
The letter will be addressed to the ministers of education and health, as well as Premier Jason Kenney.
It will ask the province to offer mobile vaccination clinics, voluntary in-school clinics with the requirement of parental consent, and making pediatric vaccines available at pharmacies and doctors officers, in addition to the public health clinic.
“I do think that if province takes the steps to implement increased access through whichever methods, there will be those families that certainly appreciate it and require it,” Ip said.
“If there is anything that our schools can advocate for, (it) is to ensure that there is consistency and normalcy, so that we can focus on the learning of kids that is what we are going to do.
“At the heart of this motion it’s about protection and safety of kids so that they can learn.”
On Thursday, Premier Jason Kenney said in-school clinics for the older age group saw a low uptake. During Tuesday’s school board meeting, many trustees brought forward this point as well. Many feel that the timing was off, and that there are more barriers for younger children.
Board chair Trisha Estabrooks said the clinics in the fall came after the vaccine was available for many weeks, and believes that those who were going to get the shot already got it.
“We believe as a board of trustees the greater access to these vaccines, the greater uptake we will see.”
She said the board will start working on its letter and hopefully send it within a week.
“This is an issue that matters to the board of trustees, and vaccination rates, with where they are at with 5- and 11-year-olds, we need to do our part to see if we can shift that vaccination rate upward,” Estabrooks said.
Press secretary to the minister of health Steve Buick said in an email to Global News that increasing vaccine coverage is a top priority for Health Minister Jason Copping.
The province is currently offering pediatric vaccines at 120 locations across the province, most open evenings and weekends. When second doses become available on Jan. 21 for the five-to-11 age group, there are plans to extend evening hours.
Buick said in-school vaccination clinic for older children limited uptake. 700 clinics were cancelled for lack of participation.
“Like B.C. and other provinces, we’ve heard from parents that they want to be with their kids at their appointments, so in-school clinics, during school hours, are not a viable option,” Buick said.
“We’ll keep working to get the rate higher by giving parents good information and encouraging them to choose vaccination for their kids.”