A rise in COVID cases among school-aged children in the region prompted the closure of two schools in the last month – the first time since they had reopened for the school year – as long as health officials look to get more shots in arms.
In the meantime, multiple cohort outbreaks meant high numbers and high contact cases that needed to get tested.
“Cases are starting to occur in those who are unvaccinated and are rising in those that have been, until very recently ineligible for vaccination, that is among children 5 to 11 years of age,” said medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang.
“Concurrent with the increases in school-aged children, we are seeing an increased number of outbreaks declared in elementary school cohorts. This trend will likely continue until more of our 5- to 11-year-old population becomes immunized. Immunization has prevented significant spread in the older 12- to 17-year-old school cohorts. I would like to thank the thousands of parents and guardians for getting their 5-to-11-year old’s vaccinated this past week.”
Public health is working to create positive experiences for children getting vaccinated, working with more partners to reach kids with disabilities and with the school board to set up children’s vaccination clinics that parents can attend.
On Monday, an outbreak of 20 cases at Blessed Sacrament Catholic school in Kitchener was declared over after shutting the school down. Also, at the beginning of the week, the region announced the closure of in-person classes at Southridge PS for another multiple cohort outbreak, with 15 cases and counting. Since December 1, eight schools in the region have reported active outbreaks, with some 27 cases between them.
“We are taking important and necessary steps to protect children, staff and the school community from exposure to the COVID-19 virus,” said Wang in a release. “This school closure is the second in Waterloo Region since the return to in-class learning.”
During the region’s weekly pandemic briefing December 3, the director of pharmacy for the local hospitals, Vickie Murray, said that as part of the vaccine rollout, the region has partnered with the school board, Kidsability and St. John Ambulance to eliminate barriers to kids getting inoculated.
“We encourage everyone to get vaccinated. Our regional vaccination clinics have appointments available.”
In the vein, the region has rolled out Camp Pinebush at the Cambridge vaccination clinic site to cater to children. Director Lisa Ambsley said the site has seen a good response from children getting vaccinated. She noted that colouring has been the biggest hit so far with kids, who hang their artworks on the wall so they can come find it again when they come back for a second dose.
“The parents have been wonderful about talking to their kids before coming to get their vaccine, so the kids have an understanding of why they’re coming in and that tend to make it easier,” she said.
Parents can find more info about children’s immunization and dates for after school and full day vaccination clinics at schools in the region online.
“The ‘Every Dose Counts’ event next week is part of our vaccine program for children that provides a welcoming and safe environment for kids 5 to 11 to get vaccinated,” said regional Chair Karen Redman during the briefing.
The second round of the region’s Every Dose Counts event will be held this weekend for children 5 to 11 to get their first doses. It will be a child friendly atmosphere, with games, activities, stickers and on Sunday a visit from Santa.
All parents or guardians can book an appointment for their children to get vaccinated on the Region of Waterloo website.