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ATA welcomes release of child vaccine

December 7, 2021 Mark Milne, ATA News Staff


Association urges parents to have children immunized as soon as possible

Elementary classrooms will soon be a lot safer for Alberta’s students, teachers, staff and their families. That’s because over half their students are expected to receive the first dose of the pediatric COVID-19 vaccination within the next few weeks. 

The Alberta Teachers’ Association is encouraging parents of children under 12 to have them vaccinated as soon as possible to help make schools safer for everyone.


On Friday, Nov. 19, Health Canada approved a version of the Pfizer vaccine that is safe for kids aged five to 11. Alberta Health Services began rollout of the pediatric vaccine a week later, predicting a participation rate of at least 50 per cent.

Alberta Teachers’ Association president Jason Schilling welcomed the announcement of this new vaccination. 

“Teachers, like many parents, are relieved to see that vaccines can finally become safely available for students of all ages,” said Schilling. “Vaccines still remain the safest and most effective tool to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus in our schools.”

While the government intends only to offer the vaccinations through 120 AHS clinics and four pharmacies throughout the province, Schilling said he would like to see the government implement a school-based rollout as well.

“Schools have traditionally provided an extremely safe, convenient and accessible location for parents to have their children vaccinated,” said Schilling. “It’s been successfully done in the past and, logically, is the best option for an equitable and widespread distribution of this new vaccine to all corners of our province.”

Schilling expressed concern that rural families may have to travel to larger centres to access the new vaccine. He believes this may be difficult for some working parents or those who are experiencing transportation issues. 

“We have to remove as many barriers as possible for parents to access this vaccination for their children,” said Schilling. “Those kids are already in class. With an in-school clinic, all that would be required from parents is consent.”

However, Health Minister Jason Copping believes there would only be a limited uptake of in-school clinics for this round of vaccines. He said that of the 1,300 schools that offered clinics for the regular Covid vaccine, only 591 opted to take part and only 4,000 doses were administered.

“Given the scale of the (pediatric vaccine) program, we’re going to use what is tried and true, which are the AHS clinics,” Copping said. “If we distribute it out to all schools, there is a risk, if we don’t have the uptake, there could be some wastage.”

At the news conference announcing the new vaccine, Premier Jason Kenney asserted that vaccinations would not be mandatory for student attendance at school. 

“That would contravene the Education Act,” Kenney said, “which requires that students be able to access the schools regardless of their health status.” 

Schilling points out that access to learning, whether it be online or face to face, has been consistently available to students throughout the pandemic, thanks to the hard work of teachers.

Schilling sees the pediatric vaccine as a welcome step towards a more normalized learning environment, but only if there is a strong parental buy-in. 

“We encourage all parents to have their children immunized as soon as possible,” Schilling said. “We need to move past the disruptive impacts of COVID-19 that have plagued the schooling experience for nearly two years.” ❚

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