'We're all tired': Maritime parents persist through COVID-19 challenges as they await vaccine for young children
Karen Fosters' daughters are learning from home this week after their school was abruptly shut down as of Sunday night because of COVID-19 cases.
"This was after roughly two weeks of exposure notices," says Foster, "and also a lot of conflicting messages."
"We got a close contact letter, and then we got a letter that said, 'no, you're not a close contact' … and then we got another letter that said, 'yeah, you were actually a close contact.'"
All that meant getting the family tested multiple times.
Her children, who are five and eight years old, both attend Dartmouth South Academy, which is one of three Nova Scotia schools closed most recently due to mounting COVID-19 exposure warnings.
The last-minute notice means it's been a scramble for parents juggling work and home.
"And I think we're all tired and our nerves are frayed," says Foster.
She also feels somewhat fortunate, however, because both she and her husband can work from home. But Foster worries about families who don't have that option when a school suddenly closes.
"I think a lot about people who don't have that luxury, and if they take a day off they don't get paid," says Foster, "I just don't know how people are doing it."
Foster also worries about the fact that she and her husband are vaccinated, while her children are too young.
It's just one example of the pressure parents are under while trying to keep their children safe and healthy in the ongoing pandemic.
It's something parent Alva Bourque relates to all too well. Both she and her husband are essential workers, which also means plenty of precautions and testing both inside and outside the home.
"It is challenging, very, very challenging," says Bourque during her lunch break in Halifax.
With a child in Grade 2, and the other in daycare, Bourque says her family is constantly vigilant about masking, physical distancing, and hand washing.
She has also been driving her daughter to school instead of using the school bus, to try to cut down on potential close contacts.
"Both my husband and I are double-vaccinated," says Bourque, "so I feel like we are protecting our children who cannot have the vaccine for now."
That's one thing parents like Bourque and Foster hope will change soon, now that Pfizer has officially asked Health Canada to approve its COVID-19 vaccine for children between five and 11 years old.
"We'll feel a lot better knowing we all have some protection against the virus," says Foster.
"Can it be tomorrow?" laughs Bourque.
Health Canada says it will only authorize the Pfizer vaccine if the benefits outweigh any potential health risks for that age group.
Then, the vaccine must be reviewed by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.
After that, it's up to the provinces to determine how to deliver it as quickly as possible.
"Once we get through those two steps, the vaccine team is already working in detail planning that," Dr. Robert Strang explained in Nova Scotia's COVID-19 update Tuesday morning.
Until all those steps are completed, families like the Fosters and the Bourques will forge ahead as best they can, handling whatever else comes next in the pandemic.