The top public health official in Chatham-Kent says there's been "a high level of interest" around the COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 to 11.
Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby also expects a "flurry of activity" over the next few weeks as more parents get answers to their questions and book appointments.
Child vaccinations will begin Saturday morning at the John D. Bradley Centre for those with appointments only. Colby said the Bradley Centre will be turned into a Super Kids zone on Friday to make it more child-friendly. There are also three vaccine clinics planned so far at schools beginning next month. The schools clinics will be at Blenheim District Secondary School December 6, 2021, Wallaceburg District Secondary School December 13, and Tilbury District Secondary School December 20. All school clinics run from 3 p.m. until 8 p.m. and everyone is welcome to get the shot at those clinics.
Chatham-Kent Public Health said it requires parental consent to give the COVID-19 vaccine to any individual under the age of 14.
Dr. Colby also said there has not been any sabotage of the COVID-19 vaccine clinics in Chatham-Kent or attempts to block children from getting vaccinated like was the case in Windsor and Sarnia where people were encouraged to fill appointments and not show up to prevent or delay children from getting vaccines. However, he added police have been notified about the possibility and are ready to act if necessary.
"I have spoken to Chief Conn and he says he's ready and will not tolerate any kind of interference with the lawful activities of people seeking health care," said Colby.
Meanwhile, both major school boards in Chatham-Kent and Lambton County say they are still discussing whether it's safe to switch to four periods a day. The province gave the green light last week for schools to return to their regular curriculum. School board officials said they still haven't decided and are still in discussions with public health authorities about how to best make the switch because exposure to the virus and the disruption of classes due to isolation is still a concern. Lambton-Kent District School Board Director of Education John Howitt said his schools want to get back to a regular four period schedule but he has to be careful because there will be more mixing of students.
"When you move from two courses to four courses, that doesn't double the amount of cohorts you're exposed to, it actually goes exponential," said Howitt. At a time when unvaccinated students who are exposed to a high-risk exposure are being sent home to isolate for 14 days or 10 days depending, that has an exponentially greater risk of happening when you go to four courses."
Howitt pointed out that most of the school boards that are switching to the four periods are in regions where the vaccination rate of the 12-17 population is 90 per cent or better. That's is not the case in Chatham-Kent where the vaccination rate for that group is 76 per cent with at least one dose and 71 per cent fully vaccinated. Howitt said the conversation would go a whole lot better if the local vaccination rate was closer to the provincial average. Ontario reported 89 per cent of Ontarians 12 and older have one dose and 86 per cent have two doses. Five of the seven current COVID-19 outbreaks in Chatham-Kent are at schools.
Dr. Colby reminds the public that vaccinated individuals can self monitor and don't have to isolate and that's a good reason to get vaccinated.