OTTAWA -- Six weeks until school returns, which makes today the deadline to get your first shot in order to be fully vaccinated on the first day of school. And during summer break 2021, students have talked as much about vaccines, as they have vacation.

Pop up clinics have been made available this week in Ottawa for kids age 12 to 17, including the Science and Technology Museum.


“It’s better that everyone is vaccinated rather than not,” says 16 year old Yahya Kahin who just got vaccinated today. “It feels great. Now it feels like there’s no fear of spreading COVID or catching COVID. Now I can just live my life the way it was before.”


His older brother Yusuf, also grateful.


“I feel great,” says Yusuf. “I feel a lot more safe now that I have the vaccine.”


Ontario’s top doctor was asked whether he believes vaccinations should be mandatory for teachers before the fall.


“I don’t think we need to have mandatory at present,” says Cheif Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore. “Given that, at a population level, we’re achieving 79.7 per cent of Ontario’s eligible population having their first doses.”


Dr. Moore says it’s too early to know whether masks will be required in class. He says it depends on whether the Delta variant spreads later this summer.


Epidemiologist Dr. Raywat Deonandan says keeping COVID out of schools should be a top priority for health officials. 


“My concern with schools, isn’t so much the safety of the kids, even though that’s important, it’s whether or not schools serve as pandemic accelerators,” says Deonandan. “The single biggest block of people who aren’t vaccinated will be kids under 12. So that’s where the outbreaks are going to happen. So if we can focus all of our public health assets on that under 12 group, then we have a good chance of containing any outbreaks and preventing anything serious from happening.”


It’s still unclear what rules will be put into place for kids under 12 who cannot get the vaccine.


The Ottawa Catholic School Board still has yet to hear what the plan is from the Ontario Government. 


“We expect the Ministry of Education's back-to-school plan any day now. When the plan is released, we will review the guidelines to determine the next steps for school in September. The Ottawa Catholic School Board will continue to follow public health and safety guidelines.”


President of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Foundation, Karen Littlewood, says they too have been left in the dark when it comes to back to school safety.


“We’re still waiting on a plan from the government as to what the return is going to look like. And I don’t have any answers to any of the questions our members are asking us.”


Although the teacher’s federation says most of its members have gotten their shot, it is still not mandatory for teachers to be vaccinated.


“We don’t have any means of tracking our members and the vaccines that they’ve had,” says Littlewood. “But we know that many of them have lined up, have gotten their first and second shot. But we still know some of them are vaccine hesitant. Maybe have other reasons why they can’t get a vaccine.”


Deonandan says he fully supports mandatory vaccinations for specific jobs.


“My mantra is, if you don’t want the jab, get another job. Some jobs require it. Health care workers, massage therapists, early childhood educators. And teachers.”


As of Monday, 85 per cent of youth 12 to 17 in Ottawa have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. 53 per cent are considered fully vaccinated.