When children and youth return to school in a few days, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is urging governments, public health authorities and school boards to prioritize the well-being of children and youth to reduce community transmissions and ensure a safe and sustained return to in-person learning.
With the continued increase of COVID-19 cases across the country, the struggle to achieve optimal vaccine rates and loosening of public health measures, we must do everything to avoid further disruption to children’s in-person schooling.
The CMA is encouraged by increasing adoption of vaccine mandates; however, we are calling on all levels of government to use every lever available to step up measures to protect children and youth, including efforts to address vaccine hesitancy and strictly following public health measures such as masking and distancing. We applaud universities, colleges and other institutions who have adopted mandatory vaccination for in-person attendance.
“Keeping kids in school is essential for development, mental health and well-being,” says CMA President Dr. Katharine Smart, who is also a Yukon pediatrician. “We need to prioritize the safety and wellness of children, especially those who can’t be vaccinated yet.”
During the 18 months and counting of the pandemic, children and youth have experienced the cumulative and harmful effects of COVID-19 with extensive isolation from friends and peers, challenges with online learning, and prolonged inactivity due to shutdowns. The long-term impact of this on the physical and mental health of children and youth is only starting to show and the health system will be severely challenged with this added demand for care.
The CMA strongly supports the adoption of public health recommendations to mitigate transmission such as smaller class sizes, improved ventilation and use of masks in school. The CMA also urges all those who work or care for children to be vaccinated as soon as possible. Currently, more than 6 million individuals between 12 and 64 remain unvaccinated.
As the federal election enters its second week, the CMA is asking all political parties to commit to continued federal leadership to ensure an effective pandemic response in Canada, including investing in a safe and sustained return to in-school learning as well as continuing financial support for low- and middle-income families.