B.C. middle and high school students are next up for COVID-19 vaccinations. (Photo credit: Black Press Media files)

Youth aged 12 to 17 now eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations

Registering children for vaccination is recommended, but not required

All British Columbians over the age of 18 are now able to register for the COVID-19 vaccine, and vaccination of children aged 12 and up is getting underway, with registration for that age group preferred but not essential.

Anyone under the age of 18 can accompany a parent or guardian who has booked their own appointment and get vaccinated at the same time, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said last week. She explained that community clinics were chosen to allow families to attend together.

However, the head of the B.C. Teachers Federation says schools, not community clinics, would be the best place to vaccinate children aged 12 to 17 against COVID-19.

“Setting up in-school vaccination clinics is the best way to vaccinate as many eligible students as possible in the shortest amount of time,” said Teri Mooring last week.

Under the current system, families should notify clinic staff when they arrive if they are adding unscheduled people, and bring student or other identification and personal health numbers if children have them.

The province estimates that there are 310,000 people between the age of 12 and 17 eligible to be vaccinated. Henry said community clinics — rather than a separate school immunization program — were chosen to allow families to attend together, which public health authorities found the most likely to maximize the delivery of vaccines.

Mooring disagrees with this approach, arguing that when it comes to delivering vaccines to children the emphasis should be in schools to start with, since vaccinations already occur there. She added that school staff regularly coordinate things like parental consent forms, and schools have large spaces such as gyms and cafeterias that could be used as vaccine clinics.

Mooring also worries that if schools don’t offer vaccines, working parents might not be able to find the time to take their children to a clinic.

“We need at least 75 per cent of the population vaccinated. Bringing the vaccines into schools can help us get there much faster, as the students are already there.”

In the Interior Health region, more than 400,000 first doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, and IH is using influencers throughout the region to encourage their friends, colleagues, and neighbours — particularly young people — to get vaccinated. There are ongoing COVID-19 vaccination clinics in 100 Mile House, Williams Lake, Kamloops, Merritt, and Salmon Arm.

If you have registered with the provincial vaccination system, you will automatically be notified when you are eligible to book your second vaccination. If you are unsure about whether you are registered, you can call or go online to check.

For information about how to get vaccinated, and a list of all the IH COVID-19 vaccination clinics, go to https://bit.ly/3bp2nIu.

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