SASKATOON -- The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is hoping to target unvaccinated children and their families by launching a home screening pilot project which it says is a first in Canada.

Families from 30 schools across the province have received COVID-19 testing kits as part of the pilot project which aims to identify cases of the illness in children under 12 years old who can’t yet get the vaccine.

The pilot launched Tuesday with the SHA briefing some of the participants getting a briefing via a virtual informational meeting.

Carrie Dornstauder is the Pandemic Response Testing Chief for the Saskatchewan Health Authority and she hopes this pilot project will ultimately be able to pick up COVID symptoms in kids earlier. Asymptomatic carriers or those who don’t show symptoms are a big part of this project as those involved take the test twice a week regardless of whether they have any symptoms or not.

“It’s designed to pick up COVID maybe before you get symptoms or in that population that kids fall into that don’t always show their symptoms,” Dornstauder told CTV News.

The test is a screening tool, not a diagnostic tool like in a testing and assessment centre.

“It’s a gentle easy nasal swab so not like the tickle you get when you go to the test and assessment centre. It’s very gentle with five swabs in each nostril and into a tube,” she said.

The results are ready in 15 minutes once the swab is put into a solution.

Saskatchewan is one of the first provinces to try out the tool.

“We really want to focus n children who do not have access to the vaccine as well as the families who have yet to receive the vaccine because we are seeing that 98% of children admitted with COVID are coming from unvaccinated homes,” Dornstauder said.

The participating schools were selected based on a number of factors.

“They were chosen based on a risk assessment which looks at the amount of vaccine, the uptake vaccine in their community as well as the time for transportation to acute care service," Dornstauder said.

"We want to make sure we are taking care of the kids who could potentially get sick and take extra time to get to us.”

The plan is to get some results within two weeks and then have more kits distributed to more schools in the province.

The ultimate goal is to get the kits to all schools in the province with students under the age of 12 attendings even if vaccinations are approved for that age group.