Under the direction of the Ministry of Health, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) is offering COVID-19 vaccination clinics in some secondary school locations to protect all students born in 2009 or before and their families, school staff and people in the local community.
Clinics offering first and second doses will be held between Thursday, September 9 and Friday, September 17. The health unit will be utilizing space made available by local school boards and schools to ensure clinics are accessible to students, staff and the school community, while not interfering with academic studies.
During school hours, the clinics will only be available to students and staff who attend or work at the school clinic location. Members of the school community and the public will be able to access the clinics after school hours on a walk-in basis.
There will be a clinic at Thursday, September 9 from 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. at St. Dominics Catholic Secondary School (955 Cedar Lane, Bracebridge). Another will take place Tuesday, September 14 from 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. at Gravenhurst High School (325 Mary St. South, Gravenhurst).
The full schedule is available on the health unit’s website and will also be communicated by the school boards to parents.
“It is important that youth 12 years and older get vaccinated because if they have COVID-19, even if they don’t have symptoms, they can spread it to others who may be at higher risk of illness,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for SMDHU. “While children and youth have typically experienced milder symptoms, others can get very sick, requiring hospitalization and experiencing more serious and longer-lasting symptoms. When youth get vaccinated, they contribute to the ‘herd’ immunity of the wider population.”
To be eligible for the vaccine, individuals must turn 12 or older in 2021. A minimum of 21 days must pass from the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine before receiving a second dose or 28 days after the first dose of the Moderna vaccine.
Like all other medical procedures, COVID-19 vaccines are given only to youth who provide informed consent. In Ontario, no age limit sets out when people can provide informed consent and make medical decisions on their own. Consent can be given by anyone capable of doing so, including those aged 12 to 17 years. Before a student receives their shot at the vaccination clinic, the health care provider will check that the student understands the treatment, why it is being recommended, and its risks and benefits.
SMDHU encourages parents and guardians to discuss COVID-19 vaccination with their children before the school clinics. If parents or students have questions or concerns about COVID-19 vaccination, we encourage them to reach out to their primary care providers.
Regardless of vaccination status, everyone in the school community must continue to follow public health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Measures include staying home when feeling ill, maintaining a physical distance of 2 metres from those living outside of your household and wearing a mask when physical distancing is not possible, covering your cough, and washing your hands regularly.
Parents and students are invited to attend a live, virtual presentation on Wednesday, September 8 from 7-8 p.m. by SMDHU associate medical officer of health, Dr. Colin Lee and Orillia Soldiers Memorial Hospital pediatrician, Dr. Sarah Barker. They will discuss COVID vaccines, issues of consent and respond to questions in real time. Visit smdhu.org/schooltownhall to learn more.
For more information, if you need help or if you have questions, contact Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520 or visit smdhu.org/covid19.
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