The territorial government is hoping to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks in schools with a new pilot project for students to be tested for the virus at home.
The project is to have 10 per cent of students aged 5 to 11 randomly chosen to be tested at home using the Abbot Panbio Rapid Response test. The test is part of a kit that includes a swab of the lower part of the nose and then a unit that will give instant results.
The results will then be sent electronically (or on paper if parents prefer) to an administrator at the child’s school. Identifying factors will then be removed and the result with be sent for the Department of Health and Social Services (HSS).
Positive results will need to be confirmed by another test at a local health centre, and students will need to isolate while they wait for the confirmation results.
“The Department of Health and Social Services acknowledges that these tests may be uncomfortable for children, and that many students have been tested for COVID-19 and may not be eager to sign up for more,” reads a news release. “It is important to realize that this program will be instrumental in allowing schools to return to in-person learning.”
The territorial government says the early detection of COVID-19 at home can help protect students aged 5 to 11 that are not yet eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.
The program will be offered at 12 schools in Hay River, Behchokǫ̀, Inuvik, Yellowknife, Ndilǫ and Dettah.
According to HSS, parents at the selected schools will receive information from the principal on how to sign up their chidlren.
The program is only effective if at least 10 per cent of the student population from junior kindergarten to Grade 6 in these communities sign up to participate, says the GNWT.
Diamond Jenness Secondary School is the latest school to have an outbreak among its students.
The Comirnaty vaccine (developed by Pfizer-BioNTech) was approved earlier this year for children aged 12 and up. The company recently submitted clinical trial data for the vaccine to be approved in children from 5 to 11 years old.
The GNWT says the pilot program would be in place until a vaccine is approved for this age group and there is a high uptake in the territory.
Updated Oct. 19, 9:45 a.m.