Region of Waterloo planning for rapid antigen screening at schools, child care centres

FILE - Grade one students wear masks as they attend class at Honore Mercier elementary school Tuesday, March 9, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Region of Waterloo public health is working on a program to offer rapid antigen screening for schools and child care centres when recommended.

The testing is considered to be useful in higher-risk situations where there are higher rates of COVID-19 or lower rates of vaccination. It will be offered as a voluntary test for unvaccinated and asymptomatic children.

Rapid screening will not replace lab-based (PCR) testing for children with symptoms or who are high-risk contacts.

“At this time we do not have any school or child care facilities where we are concerned about an elevated risk or ongoing risk of spread. That said, we are working as quickly as we can in consultation with the province and other public health units to determine program parameters,” Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, medical officer of health for the Region of Waterloo, said at a regional council meeting on Tuesday morning.

Dr. Wang said outbreaks in local schools remain relatively low.

Provincial experts are finalizing how the program will be offered.

NEED TO INCREASE COMMUNITY IMMUNITY

Dr. Wang said cases of COVID-19 remain relatively low in the region, but more residents need to get vaccinated.

Approximately 77,000 eligible residents are not yet fully immunized. About 82,000 children under 12 are still not eligible for the vaccine.

Dr. Wang said the local vaccination team will consider pre-registering children for vaccines when they become available.

All eligible residents in long-term care facilities in the region have now been offered a third dose of a vaccine.

Dr. Wang said when the province announced the vaccine certificate program, it resulted in an uptick of residents receiving their first dose. She said the best way to protect those not eligible for a vaccine is to immunize everyone around them and to keep community spread low.