Kids can go with parents to get shots at same time, Henry says

Youth 12 and over will be able to accompany their parents to COVID-19 vaccine appointments and get shots at the same time, and those coming to clinics on their own won’t need consent from their parents.

Those are some of the details in the vaccination rollout for about 310,000 youth born in 2009 or earlier revealed by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Thursday. Children in that age range can now register for their shots through the provincial online site.

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Despite continued calls Thursday from the B.C. Teachers’ Federation for in-school vaccination clinics, the majority of vaccines will be administered in community clinics in larger urban areas, while in rural and remote communities, shots will be delivered wherever whole-community vaccinations are done. After-school hours will be provided for appointments.

The B.C. Infants Act allows youth under 19 to consent to have the vaccine without their parents’ permission.

“There’s no limit to the age that somebody can consent for medical treatment, including immunization,” said Henry, adding public health nurses and physicians are used to talking to youth to ensure they understand and consent to receiving vaccinations. “We’ll make sure that resources are available in all of the clinics to assess if a young person comes in by themselves, to make sure that they understand the implications and can consent for receiving vaccinations.”

The province has been working with the youth vaccination advisory committee from B.C. Children’s Hospital to ensure public health staff can answer questions and respond to concerns from teens, said Henry. “There are lots of people who are not quite sure and looking at what are their friends doing, and I think it’s really important that we encourage them to look this up and go to credible sources of information,” she said, suggesting the B.C. Centre for Disease Control website, bccdc.ca.

There are many good reasons for youth to get vaccinated, she said, including protecting their families and safely returning to their activities and social connections.

Parents who have appointments for their shots can bring children born in 2009 or earlier with them, even if the young people aren’t yet registered with the province’s Get Vaccinated program.

“That’s one of the reasons why we’re doing most of the immunization through … the ­community clinics that we have established,” Henry said.

Through the whole-community clinics, the province found the most effective way for youth to be immunized was for families to go together, she said.

Those bringing unregistered children to an appointment should let someone at the clinic know, Henry said, as they will be dealt with through a “special stream.”

When families go to appointments, everyone being vaccinated needs to bring identification — either a personal health number, school identification, birth certificate or bank card, she said.

Henry said vaccinating young people will not delay second doses for anyone, including the clinically extremely vulnerable, noting lots of vaccine is flowing into the province.

Public health orders restricting travel and gathering, set to expire May 25, remain in place through the long weekend and into next week, B.C. Premier John Horgan said Thursday, as the province reported 357 new COVID-19 cases, including 12 in Island Health.

“We’re all excited about a positive summer and hopefully fall, but we’ve got to get there … and that means adhering to the restrictions that are in place today, tomorrow and throughout the weekend,” said Horgan. “I have confidence that British Columbians can make this modest sacrifice for one more long weekend, so we can protect our frontline workers who have been there for us for the past 15 months and well before that, keeping us safe when we most needed it.”

Health Minister Adrian Dix, Henry and the premier are expected on Tuesday to lay out a plan they’re calling Restart 2.0, outlining how to restart the economy as the pandemic winds down and restrictions ease, but Henry warned that “nothing is going to be back to 100 per cent on Tuesday.”

As of Thursday, about 2.6 million people in B.C. have had a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, just over 58 per cent of those eligible. About 130,000 were second doses, or about three per cent. Just over 2.7 million people have registered for a vaccine.

New BCCDC research on vaccine effectiveness shows 21 to 28 days after a single dose, a person’s risk of transmitting the virus is reduced by 70 per cent. “Our vaccine is highly effective,” said Henry.

The province now has 4,636 active cases, of whom 331 are in hospital, including 113 in intensive care.

Three deaths were reported on Thursday, none of which were on the Island.

To register or enquire about vaccines, call 1-833-838-2323 or go online to gov.bc.ca/getvaccinated.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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