Red Deer Public Schools would support in-school vaccination clinics if provincial health officials deem this the best way of reducing COVID cases, says an official.
With 10,800 students and 28 schools in just the Red Deer Public School District alone, it would take “some logistics” for Alberta Health to manage this province wide, adds Bruce Buruma, the district’s director of community relations.
So far, the division has had 200 cases of COVID-19 within its schools since the pandemic started, which has required a massive effort in contact tracing, says Buruma. “For every case of COVID an average of 40 individuals who are affected, so it’s been a challenge…”
More than 7,500 cases of students and 460 cases of staff in the district have had to isolate. And some individuals have spent as many as four periods in quarantine, he adds.
“We have to do anything we can do to reduce the curve and vaccinations are the No. 1 process that they think will make a difference.”
Students across the province will be learning at home for at least another week. The government ordered this shift to start May 7 and continue for at least three weeks to reduce a record-high viral caseload in Alberta.
During a news conference on Tuesday, Premier Jason Kenny said the provincial government is considering having in-school vaccine clinics to support the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
All Albertans age 12 and older are now eligible to receive vaccinations, so Kenney is exploring whether having in-school vaccination clinics would be the most effective way of boosting herd immunity among young people.
Buruma says the public school district hasn’t heard any more details about this. But he notes school districts have been at the forefront of many public health programs with students getting vaccinated against tuberculosis and measles in gyms and common areas, through a partnership with Alberta Health.
The difference, this time, is that physical distancing and masking would be required to ensure safety around in-school vaccinations, says Buruma.
“We are a good venue, but the logistics would be significant.”
According to the Alberta Teachers’ Association, “We support the use of school sites to help Alberta Health Services implement vaccination programs.”