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Vaccination rates climb as schools prepare to open on Monday

As schools return Monday, the staff and students in regional schools vaccination status shows high levels of protection
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Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health head office on Chancellor's Way. Tony Saxon/GuelphToday

With schools slated to return to in-person learning on Monday, the up-to-date data from Wellington- Dufferin-Guelph Public Health and school boards show the vaccination blitzes have been effective at getting shots in arms of all ages within the region.

“We recognize there is a lot of COVID going around our community right now, and people are worried about being exposed," said Dr. Matthew Tenenbaum, associate medical officer of health at Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health. "We also know when we close schools it’s not really an effective way to drop community rates. The evidence doesn’t really show that it helps to suppress COVID-19 rates in the community and it comes with a number of really significant harms to students.”

Tenenbaum added the return to in-person learning is not just thinking about the students' learning experience, but also their social development, mental health and ability to access essential services that they need through the school system.

At the Wellington Catholic District School Board, 1,299 school board employees and trustees fall into the COVID-19 vaccination disclosure attestation summary.

The most up-to-date data from Dec. 3, 2021, shows 1,235 (95.1 per cent) individuals have attested to being fully vaccinated, one person provided a documented medical reason for not being fully vaccinated and one person has not yet submitted an attestation form.

“The continuity of learning and mental health benefits that come from kids being in a safe school environment are significant and ensuring a safe return for our students has been our number one priority,” said Michael Glazier, director of education for the Wellington Catholic District School Board in a media release.

According to the Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB) vaccination disclosure rate, which was last updated on Jan. 8, a total of 99.5 per cent of the 4,869 staff vaccination attestations have been completed.

A total of 4,620 (94.8 per cent) of school board employees and trustees attest to being fully vaccinated, 12 (0.24 per cent) have provided a documented medical reason for not being fully vaccinated and 23 (0.5 per cent) have not yet submitted an attestation form.

“The pandemic has reinforced the importance of our public education system, for the development and learning of our students, and providing support and stability to our families and communities,” said UGDSB Chair Linda Busuttil in a media release. “We welcome our students back to in-person learning and acknowledge the work of all our education and public health partners that have made this possible.”

According to data from public health, of the 43,597 students in the region, 67.9 per cent have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine and 44.1 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Region high schools have a combined total student population of 13,580 and are reporting as of Friday an 85.3 per cent student population with at least one dose and 83.3 per cent of the student population being fully vaccinated.

The WCDSB, which has 2,277 students across four secondary schools, has an 88.6 per cent single dose population and an 86.5 per cent fully vaccinated population.

Bishop Macdonell Catholic Secondary School is leading the way with 90.9 per cent of students having at least one dose and 89.5 per cent of the schools 668 students reporting as fully vaccinated.

St. John Bosco Catholic School has the lowest number of students vaccinated with 80.3 per cent fully vaccinated.

The UGDSB has 11 high schools with an eligible population of 10,944 students with 86.3 per cent of students having at least one dose and 84.4 per cent reporting as fully vaccinated.

Guelph CVI, Centennial and Centre Wellington high schools hold the highest single vaccination rates at 90.2 per cent. Centennial holds the highest double vaccinated student body at 88.9 per cent, just 0.1 per cent higher than Guelph CVI.

Norwell District High School is reporting the lowest single vaccination status with 73.8 per cent of the schools 688 students vaccinated and 70.9 per cent of the schools' students fully vaccinated.

Private Schools, of which there are three, are reporting lower vaccination rates compared to public schools.

Maranatha Christian Day School, located in Drayton and classified as an elementary and secondary school, has the lowest vaccination rate. Of the 54 eligible students 5.6 per cent of the population have reported having a single dose, and 5.6 per cent are fully vaccinated. 

Emmanuel Christian High School in Fergus has the highest vaccination rates with 59.2 per cent of the school's 157 pupils having received one dose and 54.8 per cent fully vaccinated.

When it comes to elementary schools, the relatively short amount of time vaccines have been available for those ages 5 through 11 leaves some disparities.

Among the 18 elementary schools in the Catholic School board, which have a combined eligible student enrolment of 5,245, 62.7 per cent of students have received a single dose and 27.9 per cent are fully vaccinated.

With 452 eligible students, St. Ignatius of Loyola Catholic School has the highest percentage of single dose vaccinated students at 79.9 per cent as well as the highest percentage of fully vaccinated students at 40.7 per cent. 

With 283 students, St. Joseph Catholic School is reporting the lowest eligible student population percentage vaccinated with 40.3 per cent having received at least one dose. Meanwhile, St. Peter Catholic School with 353 pupils is reporting the lowest fully-vaccinated rate at 18.1 per cent.

Of the 21,710 elementary school students among the 65 elementary schools in the UGDSB, 61.2 per cent are reported as having received at least one dose while 27.1 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Ecole King George Public School is reporting of its 427 eligible students a total of 90.6 per cent have received at least one dose, giving it the highest single dose percentage of an elementary school in the school board. The school also maintains the highest number of pupils fully vaccinated at 54.6 per cent.

Centre Peel Public School in Drayton is reporting among its 158 eligible students just 7.6 per cent have received at least one dose and only 2.5 per cent are fully vaccinated. This is the lowest vaccination rate in the school board for both single dose and fully-vaccinated students.

In the French Catholic school board, EEC Saint-Rene Goupil elementary school is reporting of its 219 students, 59.8 per cent have received a single dose while 12.3 per cent are fully vaccinated.

"We know there are a bunch of reasons people access vaccines of different kinds of rates and passes, sometimes it's an access issue," said Tenenbaum. "We've been trying on making our vaccine clinics as accessible as possible and moving to more of an outreach mobile model down the road. But as well we know people face different informational gaps."

Tenenbaum said Public Health is currently looking into the data sets from the different schools to determine the best course of action to bring vaccine clinics to certain areas and schools.

Additional minor changes have been announced by the Ministry of Education in an effort to protect students and staff.

New safety measures in the school include N95 masks for staff, improved ventilation systems and two free COVID-19 rapid antigen tests.

Instead of the current COVID-19 case reporting which has been in place since schools resumed in September, schools will switch to reporting all absences to local health units. 

When a school meets a threshold of 30 per cent absenteeism, a joint letter will be sent to the school community with guidance. If a student is absent, it doesn't necessarily mean it's due to COVID.