Parents in the Maritimes Persist in Overcoming COVID-19 Challenges While Waiting for Vaccine for Young Children




Karen Fosters’ daughters are learning at home this week after their school was abruptly closed on Sunday night due to COVID-19 cases.

“It was after about two weeks of exposure notice,” Foster says, “and also a lot of mixed messages.”

“We got a close contact letter, then we got a letter that said ‘no you are not a close contact’ … and then we got another letter that said ‘yes, you were actually close contact. ‘”

It all meant having the family tested multiple times.

Her children, aged five and eight, both attend Dartmouth South Academy, which is one of three Nova Scotia schools most recently closed due to rising COVID-19 exposure warnings .

The last minute notice means parents have been juggling work and home.

“And I think we’re all tired and our nerves are on edge,” Foster says.

However, she also feels a bit lucky, as she and her husband can work from home. But Foster worries about families who don’t have that option when a school suddenly closes.

“I think a lot about people who don’t have that luxury, and if they take a day off they don’t get paid,” Foster says, “I just don’t know how people go about it.”

Foster is also worried that she and her husband are being vaccinated when her children are too young.

This is just one example of the pressure parents are under when trying to keep their children safe and healthy during the ongoing pandemic.

This is something parent Alva Bourque understands all too well. She and her husband are both essential workers, which also means lots of precautions and tests both inside and outside the home.

“It’s a challenge, very, very difficult,” said Bourque during his lunch break in Halifax.

With one child in Grade 2 and the other in daycare, Bourque says his family is constantly vigilant about wearing masks, physical distancing and hand washing.

She also drove her daughter to school instead of using the school bus, to try to reduce potential close contact.

“My husband and I are double vaccinated,” says Bourque, “so I feel like we are protecting our children who cannot get the vaccine right now.”

This is something parents like Bourque and Foster hope to change soon, now that Pfizer has officially asked Health Canada to approve its COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11.

“We will feel a lot better knowing that we all have some protection against the virus,” Foster said.

“Can it be tomorrow?” Bourque laughs.

Health Canada has said it will only authorize the Pfizer vaccine if the benefits outweigh the potential health risks for this age group.

Then the vaccine should be reviewed by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.

After that, it’s up to the provinces to determine how to deliver it as quickly as possible.

“Once these two steps are completed, the vaccination team is already working in detail on the planning,” said Dr. Robert Strang in the COVID-19 update from Nova Scotia on Tuesday morning.

Until all of these steps are completed, families like the Fosters and Bourques will move forward as best they can, dealing with whatever comes next in the pandemic.


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