Back-to-school COVID-19 safety tips from Canada’s top doctor

As the majority of schools across Canada are welcoming students back to class with minimal COVID-19 restrictions this year, parents are advised not to let their guard down when it comes to protecting health. children.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said cases of respiratory viruses like COVID-19 and influenza are expected to rise again for the fall season, as more and more people gather inside again. As students prepare to return to class, Dr Tam says it’s important to bring a sense of normalcy to children even if the pandemic isn’t over.

« We want as little disruption as possible to make things as normal as before, but the pandemic is still with us, » Dr. Tam told CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday.

While some schools across Canada are still offering remote learning as an option, the majority are focusing on a return to classroom learning. At the same time, most schools have relaxed their COVID-19 restrictions, including removing the requirement to wear a face mask.

With the COVID-19 vaccine becoming available for children as young as six months old, Dr Tam says getting vaccinated is the recommended first layer of protection, especially for those who have yet to receive a single dose. According to Health Canada, 42% of children aged 5 to 11 received two doses of the vaccine, a rate significantly lower than that of older age groups.

Dr. Tam says that one of the two main concerns she hears from parents who may be hesitant to vaccinate their young children is the fear of giving their children too many vaccines.

Initially, it was advised to leave intervals between several vaccinations, in order to monitor the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine. Now, Dr. Tam says, in most cases it’s no problem getting different shots in the same time frame.

“Children receive a range of vaccinations throughout the first years of life and up to age four to six, but they are usually well spaced out; but COVID vaccines can be provided at the same time as needed, depending on your age,” she said.

Now, more than ever, Dr. Tam says it’s important to keep children up to date with their vaccines given recent reports of an outbreak of meningitis.

Parents may also view the COVID-19 vaccine as unnecessary, Dr. Tam says, because most cases involving children show signs of mild illness. Although children rarely end up in hospital or intensive care, the vaccine can help further reduce the risk, she says.

Also, face masks should not be discarded altogether if some children feel more comfortable using them; especially those with pre-existing health conditions.

“I think in a classroom we need to be respectful that there are diverse student populations. Some children may have underlying medical conditions; they may want to wear masks just to add a layer of protection and others may want to wear masks just to protect each other,” she said.


With news of the federal government’s purchase of millions of doses of Omicron-specific boosters from Pfizer and Moderna, Dr. Tam says Canadians can expect to receive further updates on this. very soon.

The booster, including both the original strain and the Omicron strain, is designed to provide additional protection against emerging variants of COVID-19 and boost immunity for those who have already received two doses.

According to Dr. Tam, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is also considering providing these boosters to adolescents and children.

“I think we should expect Health Canada to complete its review very soon and we have enough supplies,” she said.

« Initially, these vaccinations were for adults, but I think our National Immunization Advisory Committee is also looking into providing these boosters to adolescents or children. »

Over the summer, Dr. Tam said viral activity was higher than expected, primarily due to increased cases and hospitalizations caused by Omicron and its subvariant, BA. 5.

« It’s not going down fast, so we’re still monitoring that. We hope it will drop further before an increase in activity in the fall,” she said.


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