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Toronto, Peel urge students to get fully vaxxed before school starts


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Toronto, Peel urge students to get fully vaxxed before school starts

Students in Toronto and Peel are being urged to get their COVID-19 shots as soon as possible because it’s their “last chance to vax” to be fully covered by the time school starts in September.

In Peel, the “Vax to school” public health campaign has been launched, while the Toronto District School Board sent an email to all parents Friday.

“The first day of school is about seven weeks away,” said the email from the Toronto board. “Youth 12 years of age and older, at the time of vaccination, are eligible for COVID-19 vaccine. To be fully vaccinated before school starts, students will need two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. All students who have not received a first dose should get one as soon as possible, or get your second dose if your first dose was at least 28 days ago.”

In Toronto, about 73 per cent of 12- to 17-year-olds have had a single dose, and pop-up clinics targeted at youth will continue to be scheduled so that they can get a second dose. Full immunization coverage takes another two weeks to kick in.

For those needing a first dose, walk-in appointments are being offered at many vaccine clinics, said the email from Nicole Welch, director of the COVID-19 school response team and chief nursing officer.

In Peel, public health offered a “fast track,” go-to-the-front-of-the-line promotion to youth and their families last Wednesday and Thursday, and will operate other clinics aimed at youth.

“Our students need in-class learning,” said Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie at the “Vax to School” launch Thursday. “This is not only essential to how they learn, but also for their social development and overall well-being. They need sports and clubs. They need to be around their friends, classmates and teachers.”

She also noted that a new report from pediatric experts at Sick Kids and CHEO, released Monday, “also encourages students age 12 to 17 to go out and get vaccinated … and if you do the math, in order for youth to be fully vaccinated by the first day of school, they need to get their second dose no later than August 24, to allow for the two-week period for the vaccine to kick in.”

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Vaccines for youth under 12 have not yet been approved.

“I’m urging all eligible youth aged 12 to 17 to get fully protected through ‘Vax to School.’ We know kids want to get back to their friends, classrooms and extracurriculars,” said Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel’s medical officer of health.

“The quickest and safest way for them to do so is to get vaccinated at least two weeks before school starts.”

On Tuesday, Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said the province is looking at “all possibilities,” including incentives, to boost COVID-19 vaccine uptake to 90 per cent of those eligible, saying that is the best way to keep highly infectious Delta variant at bay.

Moore noted that school will soon restart in person and cooler weather “will begin driving us indoors. We’ll be in closed spaces with closer faces in crowded spaces, so our risk will be going up very shortly.”

In Peel, public health would like to see all youth ages 12 to 17 vaccinated.

“The lives of youth in Peel have been turned upside down by the pandemic, and this has impacted their mental health and their education,” public health said in a written release. “Our goal for this September is not only for a safe return to school, but a return to school that is as close to ‘normal’ as possible for Peel students. To make this happen, with the delta variant circulating, we need to aim for 100 per cent coverage among youth who are 12-17 years old in Peel.”

As of last Monday, 70 per cent of youth in Peel had a first dose and 40 per cent had two.

Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy

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