COVID-19 Update: School aged children

Posted Friday October 15, 2021

Posted By: Emily Ngo

Category: General

To: Ottawa Physicians and Nurse Practitioners
Date: October 14, 2021
From: Dr. Michelle Foote, Associate Medical Officer of Health (Acting), Dr. Trevor Arnason, Associate Medical Officer of Health

Dear Colleagues,

The purpose of this memo is to provide an update on COVID-19 testing in school aged children, and COVID-19 vaccination in 5-11 year olds.

COVID-19 Testing

Recently, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) has worked with our partners at CHEO to make take-home COVID-19 PCR test kits available to students and staff at all Ottawa-area public schools. The take-home test kits are intended to reduce barriers to testing for students and staff who develop symptoms of COVID-19 or who are identified as a high-risk contact of a case. The kits replace a visit to an assessment centre for testing. The kits include a combined buccal/oral/nasal swab that can be done by a parent/guardian, caregiver, or the child themselves, as well as a registration form and instructions on how to perform the test. The test is to be completed on-site in the parking lot, the car, or back at home. The completed take-home tests are required to be returned to the school or an assessment centre on the same day.

CHEO has also launched a Do-It-Yourself test kit program where parents/guardians can schedule a Do-It-Yourself kit pick-up from the CHEO Assessment Centre at Brewer. These kits are available by appointment only and contain the same PCR-based buccal/oral/nasal self-swab that are being offered at schools. These test kits are available for kids two months of age to 18 years old who are symptomatic or are a high risk contact. Results for both DIY test kits from CHEO/Brewer and take-home test kits obtained from schools will be available in a similar timeframe to an in-person visit at an assessment centre.

Other options for COVID-19 testing in Ottawa can be found on OPH’s website.

Last week, Ontario announced new program for targeted use of voluntary rapid antigen screening in certain schools and licensed childcare settings at the discretion of public health units. The Ministry of Health has indicated that rapid antigen tests will be available and can play a role in school screening where there is higher risk of transmission, adding to the tools available to us to help detect and control COVID-19 in our schools and community. Ottawa Public Health is working with Ontario Health, the Ministry of Education, local school boards, and parents to explore how to best use this new rapid antigen screening tool and implement this program in targeted schools and childcare facilities to test unvaccinated asymptomatic individuals. Anyone with symptoms, a known COVID-19 exposure or a positive result on a rapid antigen test will be directed to complete a PCR test.

We will share further details as we learn more from the Province on the implementation of this program.

COVID-19 Vaccination for children aged 5-11 years

While the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine submission for children 5-11 years is under review by Health Canada, OPH is working with the City of Ottawa, Ontario Health Teams, and community partners to plan for the immunization of eligible children once the vaccine is approved and supply is available. Options for community physicians and community pediatricians to vaccinate at community clinics, support mobile vaccination teams or vaccinate at their own clinics continue to be available. We continue onboarding primary care COVID-19 vaccine providers who want to give vaccines to their patients in their own clinic. For more information on onboarding please contact:

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