'Protect our children': Sask. doctors' groups call for mandatory vaccination and masking in schools
Two Saskatchewan medical organizations want school divisions to consider mandatory masking and vaccination policies for the upcoming academic year.
The Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA) and the Saskatchewan College of Family Physicians (SCFP) issued a joint statement Wednesday afternoon.
“We are asking school divisions to enact measures that will mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in their schools, especially as the highly contagious Delta variant spreads in the province,” said SMA president Dr. Eben Strydom, who is a family physician in Melfort.
Doctors are concerned with rising COVID-19 numbers and trailing vaccination rates for people aged 12 and older, the statement said.
“Physicians are especially concerned as we now have a pandemic of the unvaccinated, yet children under 12 cannot receive their shots,” Strydom said.
In July, 18 per cent of Saskatchewan's new COVID-19 cases occurred in children under 12, he said.
The groups say they support the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation's call for mandatory vaccinations for eligible staff and students and parents or guardians in the province's school divisions.
The SMA and SCFP recommend school divisions mandate mask-wearing to help control the spread of COVID-19.
They also want mobile vaccination clinics in schools; a requirement for sick children and adults to stay home and get tested; the proactive reporting of positive cases to parents; and social distancing where possible.
"We need to do everything we can to protect our children who cannot yet be vaccinated,” said SCFP president Dr. Myles Deutscher, a Saskatoon family physician.
“COVID-19 is affecting children and with the more dangerous variants and increasing evidence of long-term effects of COVID, it is more important than ever to protect this population."
Nazeem Muhajarine, an epidemiologist and professor in the department of community health and epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan, said he would like to add his voice to these calls for action.
Muhajarine echoed that more and more COVID-19 cases across Canada and in Saskatchewan are in people under the age of 19.
“We are really seeing the Delta variant affecting disproportionately those who are young and we are seeing that happen not only here in Canada, but in the U.S. and in other countries,” he said.
That’s why he believes it’s important for provinces like Saskatchewan to maximize the amount of young people that can get vaccinated by allowing children who are turning 12 this year to get the COVID vaccine, similar to what Ontario announced it will be doing.
“In a Delta-variant driven circumstances of COVID-19, four months is a long time and it can leave a lot of children in its wake and we need to do whatever we can in order to keep our children safe,” he said.
“Some people say that children get mild symptoms of COVID-19 or a mild case of COVID-19, but we really don’t know very much about long COVID and children, so I think that we can’t take chances, we can’t play with our children’s lives and wellbeing.”
Do you have a story idea or news tip? Email us.