TORONTO, April 27, 2021 – Although the death of children from COVID-19 is rare, the cumulative and compounding impact of the pandemic on children is of extreme concern. Our deepest condolences are with the family and loved ones of 13-year-old Brampton child Emily Viegas. The most effective strategy we have to protect kids is to protect the adults around them. The Ontario government must urgently prioritize paid sick days and vaccines for essential workers in racialized and low-income hotspots.
Children are grieving the loss of parents, caregivers and loved ones. Some children are at home with little to no outside supports – and home is not a safe place for all children. Children are suffering more profound mental illness – including higher suicidality, more severe suicide attempts, increases in eating disorders and increases in substance use and intentional overdose. All kids are experiencing the adverse impacts of the pandemic, but those suffering the most are the ones already at highest risk due to systemic racism, income inequality and pre-existing disability and mental illness.
The most important thing we can do for our kids right now is to reduce the death and harm of the current crisis by implementing the equity-based recommendations of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Table. We add our voices to those urgently calling on the Ontario government to direct 50% of vaccine supply to the 74 hotspot areas, implement paid sick days now, and allow outdoor recreation with physical distancing and masking.
In addition to the public health measures outlined above to address the current crisis levels of transmission and illness, we call on the government to urgently take the following action specifically related to children:
- Develop a children’s vaccine strategy which includes: vaccinating all teachers, education workers and early childhood educators now – the news this morning about childcare workers is a welcome start; a plan for mass vaccination of kids 12+ presuming imminent approval of vaccines; and measures to make schools safer including testing and tracing.
- Ensure non-essential retail and businesses do not re-open before schools. Schools should be the last to close, first to open. This includes taking a regional approach to re-opening schools and planning now for outdoor summer camps to operate.
- Put in place a #kidsfirststrategy to address the significant and growing mental health and development crisis facing kids and families.
To all our health care workers and essential workers doing everything you can right now: we see you, we thank you, and we are committed to advocating alongside you for the government action needed to address this crisis.
We recognize the government has to make very challenging decisions in an unprecedented situation; we urge them to think of Ontario’s children and immediately take action on our recommendations.
About the Children’s Health Coalition: The Children’s Health Coalition is a growing collective of children’s health organizations, including CHEO, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, SickKids, McMaster Children’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital – London Health Sciences Centre, Children’s Mental Health Ontario and Empowered Kids Ontario.