OTTAWA -- An Ottawa public school board trustee suggests if elementary and secondary students return to the classroom this spring, it should be used as an opportunity to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to eligible students.

Medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said Wednesday that "it's looking positive" to be able to open schools towards the end of May if the rate of COVID continues to come down in the community.

Ottawa Carleton District School Board Trustee Mark Fisher tells Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa at Work with guest host Graham Richardson, it would be great to get schools open and their kids back to school before the end of the school year.

"If we can then use this opportunity to do a mass vaccination campaign for our students and for our staff going into the summertime, I think that sets up really well for the fall."

All public schools across Ontario have been closed since the end of the April break. Premier Doug Ford announced on April 12 that schools would be closed indefinitely amid soaring COVID-19 case counts.

"When we look at the situation locally, as Dr. Vera Etches had indicated, things are looking much more positive in Ottawa. At least regionally, if we can get back to opening schools in late May or early June, if the province allows us to do that," said Fisher.

"I think a school setting is a great opportunity to look at an additional strategy for how we vaccinate and how we try to get to that one-dose summer that the prime minister has talked about and get us ready for the fall."

Health Canada has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for people 12 and older in Canada.

Earlier this month, Ottawa Public Health said it was looking at setting up school-based immunization clinics to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to children 12 and older.

"This is right in our wheel house of expertise where immunizing teenagers through school-based programs is the primary way that public health delivers vaccinations in a non-pandemic year," said Dr. Trevor Arnason, Ottawa's associate medical officer of health, while speaking with reporters on May 5.


Some parents have suggested schools should not reopen due to current COVID-19 cases rates in Ottawa.

But Fisher says it's important for kids to return to school for their mental health and learning.

"Schools with the mitigation measures in place can be safe learning environments both for our employees and our students. But we also know that when rates increase and get incredibly high in some of our communities we're going to find more and more cases in our schools and we're going to increase the risk of transmission and exposure," said Fisher on 580 CFRA on Wednesday.

So we need to do what we're doing right now in terms of those stay-at-home orders. Overall, if we manage cases in our community, together with our mitigation measures that we already have in school, schools can be a safe learning environment and we need to try to get our students back to school as fast as possible for their mental health and their learning."