With a fourth pandemic wave underway in Ontario — on the heels of schools reopening for a new academic year — the province has announced it will host COVID-19 vaccine clinics at or near schools this September. 

The Government of Ontario said it will work with public health units and school boards to rollout vaccine clinics in the days leading up to the start of the school year, continuing for the first few weeks of school. The clinics will operate either at schools or at off-site locations nearby, and may operate before, during, or after school hours. 

Clinics will target youth over age 12, their families, and education staff who have not received a first or second dose. 

“As part of the last mile campaign to reach as many students and staff as possible and to keep schools as safe as possible, we are requiring school boards and public health units to roll out clinics in or close to schools,” Minister of Education Stephen Lecce said in a media release announcing the rollout.

“By making vaccines more accessible, and with a cautious reopening in September following the expert advice of the chief medical officer of health, we will further bolster our fight against COVID-19 and variants.”

As of Aug. 15, more than 69 per cent of youth ages 12 to 17 have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 56 per cent have received a second dose. On Aug. 16, the province reported 526 new COVID-19 cases, 67 per cent of which were in unvaccinated people. Provincial data shows that in July, unvaccinated Ontarians were approximately eight times more likely to become infected with COVID-19 compared to people who were fully vaccinated.

With the COVID-19 Delta variant driving this latest surge and unvaccinated people accounting for most new COVID-19 patients, the federal and provincial governments have introduced several new measures this month to boost the vaccination rates.

On Aug. 13, the COVID-19 vaccination will be mandatory for all federal public servants, as well as employees and travellers in the federally regulated air, rail and marine transportation sectors beginning this fall.

Vaccines are not mandatory for staff or students in public schools, and will only be provided at school-focused clinics with informed consent from the recipient. Parents are encouraged to discuss vaccination with their children before attending a clinic. 

“Having vaccination clinics at our schools will make it more convenient for students to receive their vaccine in a familiar and comfortable environment and will help to ensure a safer and sustained reopening of our schools,” said Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore, in a media release.