A message from Dr. Unjali Malhotra, Office of the Chief Medical Officer
As the mother of a child who is under 12 – and therefore not yet eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine – I'm among the many parents and other caregivers feeling concerned as my child returns to school.
We all want our children to be safe, happy and healthy. On the one hand, we are excited for our children's return to school, as we know how much they need it. They need to see their friends and teachers, spend time in libraries and playgrounds, and take part in all the wonderful things that make up the school experience.
On the other hand, we know that not everyone has chosen to get vaccinated, and that to protect our children, and have “community immunity," everyone around them who can get vaccinated needs to do so.
Indigenous author and parent Hayden King summed up our collective contradictory feelings in a recent tweet: “I've never been so eager for my kids to go back to school and never been so heartbroken about it either."
Since small children (under 12) are not yet eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19, families and communities are the collective protection of our children. So, we need to be able to trust by now that everyone who is eligible has chosen to become fully vaccinated (two shots, plus two weeks after the second shot) to reduce the possibility of transmitting COVID-19 to our kids.
We are hoping that other families feel the same. A community is built on trust, reliance on each other, and coming together. We need to be able to trust and support each other while we are all together in this situation.
Fortunately, we know that school transmission has been low so far. You can read more about the measures being taken by the provincial government to ensure COVID-19 safe schools and the BC Centre for Disease Control public health communicable disease guidance for K-12 Schools.
As for doing our part as individual community members, in addition to getting fully vaccinated, we need to continue following public health guidelines including wearing masks when indoors or in crowded outdoor spaces, washing our hands regularly, and keeping our distance from people who are not in our households.
Little children can only remember to do so much, so parents and their teachers will have to keep reminding them to wash their hands and wear their masks. What's more, we'll need to be diligent about keeping them home if they get sick.
The current mask guidelines for schools in BC require staff for Kindergarten to Grade 12, as well as students from Grades 4 to 12, to wear masks in all indoor areas, including at their desks and on school busses. Visitors are also required to wear masks.
Your school has likely provided you with their plan to ensure the safest possible environment for our children. You may see things like clearly marked sanitizer stations, staggered play times, virtual assemblies, and smaller crowds at sporting events.
For more information, visit the province's COVID-19 safe schools webpage and/or talk to your school's teachers, principal, or administrative team. There are sometimes solutions such as virtual classes, especially if you live with someone immunocompromised.
We can do this! We are facing this together; we are brave, we know what to do to protect our children, and we will get through this as a community.
If you have not yet been vaccinated, please read the following information about how to do so.
There are two ways to get vaccinated:
You can also register by phone at 1-833-838-2323 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., every day, with reduced hours on statutory holidays. Dial 711 if you are hearing-impaired.
For more information on the COVID-19 vaccines, visit our regularly updated FAQs.
If you are a client or health care provider with client-specific questions or concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine, and do not have access to a primary care provider, call The First Nations Virtual Doctor of the Day at 1-855-344-3800. Medical Office Assistants are available to help you seven days per week from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Download this message in PDF format here.