By Camille Aubin
Students (ages 12 years old and older), staff and teachers had the option to receive their first or second dose of COVID-19 vaccine at the school-based clinics held locally at J.A. Laird on Monday, Sept. 20, as well as at David Thompson Secondary School (DTSS), on Friday, Sept. 24. According to Interior Health, the clinics were set up to provide school communities with easy access to the vaccine.
The regional health organization first announced the clinics in early Sept., in partnership with local school districts throughout the interior, saying the school-based COVID-19 vaccine clinics were to “ensure the safety and health of students and staff.”
“Keeping schools open and safe is vital for the social and emotional well-being of students,” said provincial education minister Jennifer Whiteside. “We must all come together to keep students and school staff safe, and the best way to do that is to get vaccinated. If you have yet to get your first or second dose of the vaccine, your time is now.”
After Invermere students began their school year, a letter addressed to parents from Interior Health explained that students aged 12 and older could provide ‘mature minor consent’ and receive vaccines without parental or guardian involvement.
The ‘mature minor consent’ falls under the provincial Infants Act, which outlines the legal position of children under 19 years of age in B.C. on a variety of topics, one of which is medical care. Under the act, children in B.C. are allowed to consent to a medical treatment on their own, so long as the health care provider involved is convinced of the treatment’s benefits and is convinced that the child understands the details of the treatment, including its risks and benefits.
This means that children aged 12 or older may determine for themselves whether or not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
A range of immunizations is often available to school age kids in B.C., through school-based immunization clinics, in Grade 6 and again in Grade 9. The act outlines that although there is no specific set age which children are determined to be able to give consent, common practice has been for parents or guardians to provide consent for the Grade 6 immunizations. However, for the Grade 9 immunizations, children are given the opportunity to consent for themselves. Under the act, immunization records of any children who give their consent will not be shared with the parents or guardians unless the child gives permission.
At the local school-based vaccination clinics, parents and guardians were welcome to accompany their children at the time of vaccination.
Similar vaccinations clinics as those in Invermere have been or are scheduled to be held through B.C. The topic attracted considerable attention in Salmon Arm, when on Friday, Sept. 17, anti-vaccination protestors entered three local schools there while students were in class. The intrusion prompted the school to take lockdown measures.
A detailed list of immunization clinics currently occurring within the Interior Health region is available on the Interior Health website at http://news.interiorhealth.ca/news/covid-19-immunization-clinics/.