Public health calls for COVID vaccinations as schools prepare for next outbreak

The Greater Toronto Area’s last two COVID outbreaks of this particular strain of Enterovirus were linked to 15 deaths between September and October, but none of those cases were in public schools. Toronto’s last emergency COVID-17 vaccination days were in January of this year. Since then, public health officials are now sending fliers to nearly 7,000 Toronto Public School (TPS) staff at 120 schools and parent association volunteers.

“We’re stressing to all the parents out there not to wait for reports of kids coming down with the disease,” said Poonam Kalra, a spokesperson for the Toronto Public Health (TPH) department. “We don’t need to wait for the sickness, we don’t need to wait for hospital admissions or a death.”

Despite the new advisory, parents said they aren’t yet sending their children to school, and more than 500 parents have signed a petition in support of more school COVIDs.

“Everyone is sitting around the lunch tables just thinking, ‘We’ve already tried home remedies, now it’s got to come out of school,’” said Robert Christie, whose daughter is in year 5 at Kingsvale School.

“I think [this advisory] is the only hope for parents as far as children’s exposure and there’s no home remedies, no homemade herbs and no stuff like that,” Christie said.

“We want to help prevent more deaths, this seems the only way we can start to help keep children safe,” Christie said.

CFCV-19, previously known as enterovirus 71, has been hitting hard this year, with 759 cases across the entire country, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. The most recent ACTI — Allergy & Immunology Canada — report found five separate outbreaks of (uncategorized) enterovirus at TPS schools across Toronto from 3 September to 3 November.

There are three types of COVIDs: Type A is a small, fast-spreading respiratory virus that can damage respiratory and nasal structures. It can also cause complications in children, especially those with chronic lung conditions such as cystic fibrosis, an infectious disease that affects millions of people across the world.

Type B can be harder to diagnose because its symptoms mimic those of a cold, but can be fatal. “Symptoms include fever, persistent cough, muscle aches, and headache and may result in shortness of breath and chest pain,” according to the federal Public Health Agency of Canada.

The third type, CFCV-19, is a particularly dangerous one. “Symptoms include intense congestion, headaches, sore throat, red eyes, stomach pain, and vomiting,” according to the PHA. “The low severity of the outbreak and the lower death rate are due to the fact that the virus is incubated much longer than other types.”

“Sometimes we think, ‘Well, the only way I’m ever going to get a child to get an illness and have to get their immunization is with a public health official being in their community,’ but this virus’s pathogenesis makes it kind of an easy one.”

Research shows that even if a doctor can find a child with an enterovirus infection, families may not be convinced to get the vaccines, a few hundred dollars a year.

“Parents don’t give us that much of a hard time for parental choice. People want their children to be vaccinated in a healthy way, they don’t care who does the vaccination,” said Christie.

In September, when the first COVID was announced at Baycrest Yonge Riverdale School, Toronto Public Health told CBC News the timing “ticks you off”, though it wasn’t directly connected to that school’s outbreak. In October, the agency reported a spike in cases at a Toronto Public School.

“You would hope that parents would be a little more proactive,” said Kalra. “Are we making these recommendations more out of frustration that we haven’t been able to create a lot of awareness? I think we’re creating these recommendations, it’s really more of a wake-up call.”

“Every child is an infant to entry of this virus,” said a Toronto Public

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