Saskatchewan will not require vaccinations in schools or for extracurricular activities

REGINA – Saskatchewan said it will not require children to show proof of COVID-19 vaccinations or test negative to participate in extracurricular activities or school – unless there are unusual circumstances.

Health Minister Paul Merriman said the Saskatchewan government’s focus on keeping children in the classroom and including them in the province’s vaccine passport program was unquestionable.

“They were in and out of the classroom, and it was a huge challenge for students and teachers,” says Merriman. “We wanted to try to make it as normal as possible…for those young children to learn, but also to work hard about the virus.”

Health Canada on Friday approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11. Provinces can start providing doses as early as next week.

On Monday, Saskatchewan will release details on how it plans to immunize about 115,000 children in that age group. The province is expected to receive 112,000 initial doses.

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This weekend, students attending a volleyball tournament at Swift Current Comprehensive High School are still required to present proof of vaccinations or a negative test to participate.

A school spokeswoman said the Chinook Schools Division is not on a mission to administer the vaccine, but a policy set forth by the area health officer because of the school’s ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. motion.

“There may be special circumstances, if there is an outbreak in schools, other provisions may apply,” added Saskatchewan chief medical officer Dr Saqib Shahab.

Some organizations are calling for more stringent measures.

In August, the Federation of Saskatchewan Teachers asked the government to make vaccinations mandatory for everyone entering schools – including teachers, staff and students. In October, 21 provincial health officials sent a letter to Merriman asking children 12 years of age and older to present proof of vaccinations for classroom learning and extracurricular activities.

“You have the right to an education, but you don’t have the right to go to school,” said union president Patrick Maze. “We will still give you an education. But if you’re choosing not to get vaccinated, then we can provide that education online because you’re putting people at risk.”

Some school departments have assigned the task of vaccinating staff, but the province said the situation is different for students.

“I am justifying because officials and teachers are employees of branches in the school. The students are provincial students,” said Education Secretary Dustin Duncan. “They are minors and they have the right to an education.”

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Shahab said he wants to avoid cases where unvaccinated children who are eligible for vaccinations are unable to participate in classroom learning or other activities.

“It’s not their fault that their parents chose not to have them vaccinated,” he said.

Duncan said there are 27,000 school-age children still unvaccinated.

Health and education officials are working to set up clinics at schools. Duncan said the government is also working on a plan to ensure anti-vaccination protesters don’t show up at schools, as they have done in hospitals.

The province now requires proof of vaccination or a negative test for anyone 12 years of age or older to enter non-essential places, including restaurants, theatres, gyms, and party venues. event organization.

Under the public health order, parents can certify for those under the age of 18. Shahab says that will not change.

This Canadian Press report was first published on November 19, 2021.

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