Horwath calls for vaccine rollout plan for kids during Sarnia stop

NDP leader Andrea Horwath was joined by Michelle Ruston at Vye Park in Sarnia. October 22, 2021 Blackburn Media Photo by Melanie Irwin

Ontario’s NDP leader called for a province-wide plan to roll out the COVID-19 vaccine to children, ages five to 11 years old, as soon as it’s approved during a stop in Sarnia Friday morning.

Speaking at Vye Park with Lakeroad Public School in the background, Andrea Horwath said the Lambton Kent District School Board has 119 student cases per 100,000 people and the St. Clair Catholic District School Board has the highest rate of student COVID cases in the province at 233 infections per 100,000 people.

“If I were the premier, right here, right now in Ontario, I would have pre-registration put together, I would be identifying schools where clinics are going to be held and making sure the communications are clear to families and educators and everyone,” said Horwath.

“Let’s have a very smooth and swift rollout once that announcement comes, because that’s what our kids deserve, that’s what our parents deserve and that’s what will help us to continue with the battle against COVID-19.”

Horwath is encouraged that preliminary results from a recent Lambton Public Health survey, as reported by Sarnia News Today Thursday, indicate a significant number of parents in Sarnia-Lambton are planning to get their children vaccinated.

“It really does show that people at large understand how important it is to fight this Delta variant, and the best way to do that is to have people vaccinated,” she said. “Parents have watched the disruptions that have impacted their children so negatively over the last 18 to 19 months and anything at all that keeps those kids in classrooms, that keeps them with their friends, and getting the socialization, and getting the supports, and making up for what might have happened, in terms of potential learning loss and other issues — as they were out of school the longest across our country — there’s a lot to be made up.”

Michelle Ruston, a mother of a seven-year-old boy and ten year old girl in Grades three and five at Lakeroad, is relieved her children will be able to be vaccinated in the near future.

“I want my children to be protected against getting seriously ill,” said Ruston. “I want them to be able to stay in school and I also don’t want them to spread COVID to their grandparents or other vulnerable family members.”

Ruston, who is also a supply teacher, wishes the provincial government had done more this year to make schools safer until the vaccines were available.

“Smaller class sizes, better ventilation, and superior PPE for our school staff should have been a top priority,” she said. “As a mom, even one sick child is too many.”

The NDP has also called for the COVID-19 vaccine to be added to the existing list of student vaccines, which already includes the measles and mumps vaccines.