Saskatchewan will not allow vaccination warrants for schools and extracurricular activities

REGINA – Saskatchewan says it will not require children to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or test negative to attend school or extracurricular activities – unless there are unusual circumstances.

Health Minister Paul Merriman said the goal of the Saskatchewan Party government was to keep children in classrooms and that their inclusion in the province’s vaccination passport program was not to be expected. the agenda.

“They went in and out of the classrooms, and it was very difficult for the students and the teachers,” Merriman said. “We want to try to make things as normal as possible (…) for these young children to learn, but also to be diligent about the virus.”

Health Canada approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11 on Friday. The provinces could start offering doses as early as next week.

Saskatchewan is due to release details on how it plans to immunize about 115,000 children in this age group on Monday. The province expects to receive 112,000 initial doses.

This weekend, students participating in a volleyball tournament at Swift Current Comprehensive High School will still be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative test to participate.

The Chinook School Division does not have a vaccination mandate, but a policy has been established by the area’s medical officer of health because the school has an active outbreak of COVID-19, a spokeswoman for the division said. .

“There could be special situations where, if there is an outbreak in a school, other provisions may apply,” added Saskatchewan Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Saqib Shahab.

Some organizations are asking for more stringent measures.

In August, the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation called on the government to require vaccines for everyone in school, including teachers, staff and students. In October, the province’s 21 medical officers of health sent a letter to Merriman recommending that children 12 and older show proof of vaccination for classroom learning and extracurricular activities.

“You have the right to education, but not the right to go to school”, declared the president of the federation Patrick Maze. “We will always give you an education. But if you choose not to be vaccinated, then we can offer that education online because you are putting people at risk.”

Several school divisions have implemented vaccination mandates for staff, but the province has said the situation is different for students.

“I justify it because the staff and teachers are employees of the school divisions. The students are students of the province, ”said Education Minister Dustin Duncan. “They are minors and they have the right to an education.”

Shahab said he wanted to avoid a situation where unvaccinated children who are eligible for an injection cannot attend classroom learning or other activities.

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

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

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

The province currently requires proof of vaccination or a negative test for anyone 12 years of age and older to access non-essential venues, including restaurants, theaters, gyms and event venues.

By virtue of the public health order, parents can vouch for children under the age of 18. Shahab said that will not change.

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

Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press

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