The Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) will be holding vaccination clinics at schools to provide teachers, staff and students aged 12 and older the opportunity to get the vaccine, if they so desire.
Dr. Kit Young Hoon, medical officer of health at the NWHU, said the vaccine is the most effective way to reduce the numbers of infected individuals that could become seriously ill or hospitalized.
However, there are some concerns that students will get the vaccine during the school day when parents are not around to give consent.
Young Hoon said that with any medical procedure or treatment, the patient is required to provide consent that they understand the risks and benefits of that procedure and that they agree to having it.
The same applies to vaccines, Young Hoon said, adding that there is no age of consent for vaccines.
“Anyone, as long as they are at the appropriate age to understand the risks and benefits, can consent to get any treatment, including vaccinations,” Young Hoon said.
“For vaccines, those aged 12 to 17 are considered able to provide consent to get the COVID-19 vaccine,” Young Hoon said. “They just need to be able to understand information. If they don’t understand the information, it is based on the judgement of the healthcare professional working with the client to make this judgement.”
Young Hoon said all parents must screening their children for COVID-19 everyday before they go to school. If a student fails the screen, they should be tested for COVID-19 and not return to school before the results are known and symptoms have improved.
This rule applies to fully vaccinated students and children attending daycare.
“Although the vaccines are very effective in reducing the likelihood of getting sick with COVID-19, there is still a possibility that you can become infected,” Young Hoon said. “Those who are fully vaccinated who get infected may show no or mild symptoms, while those with no vaccine are more likely to become seriously ill.”
With the Delta Variant already in the NWHU catchment area, Young Hoon said residents should make an effort to choose situations or interactions that do not involve the risk of getting COVID-19.
This is especially relevant as the weather cools down and more people gather indoors, Young Hoon said, adding that she urges the public to be vigilant with prevention measures and consider the risk of an activity before planning social events.
“Outdoor interactions are better than indoors,” Young Hoon said. “Interacting with vaccinated individuals decreases your risk. And of course wearing masks in indoor spaces and good hand hygiene helps reduce risks. The Delta Variant is in more than one district. It is the predominant variant in Ontario. It’s not something we can escape from.”
Young Hoon said there are provincial-level numbers on whether someone is vaccinated or not when they get infected with COVID-19.
“That is useful when we talk about large numbers to have this type of information,” Young Hoon said. For a small number of cases, knowing whether a case was vaccinated or not is not very helpful. There will be the occasional vaccinated case that gets COVID-19. But most of the cases will be unvaccinated and that is because of the effectiveness of the vaccine.”
Over 116,000 doses of the [COVID-19] vaccine have been given in the NWHU’s catchment area.
The health unit continues to provide COVID-19 vaccination clinics at local schools and across the region. Their website has more information on local clinics, including how to book and where walk-in clinics are available.