The Surrey School District began distributing COVID-19 antigen tests to students last week, however, changes to the practice were implemented following Health Canada’s advisory last Thursday (Feb. 24) about the potential risk associated with their misuse or accidental spillage of the solutions.
District spokesperson Ritinder Matthew confirmed Wednesday (March 2) that the kits – which each contain five tests – are now only available to elementary-aged students if picked up by a parent or guardian.
“Secondary students, we still send them home with students, but for K through 7, we’re actually co-ordinating pickup with parents, so parents are coming into school for pickup,” Matthew said.
The district made parents aware of the advisory – issued in light of “an increase in reports to poison control centres” – and reminded them “to store these kits out of the reach of children and pets,” Matthew added.
It’s unclear how many schools had already received and distributed the kits ahead of the distribution revision.
B.C.’s health ministry announced in mid-February that it would be setting up distribution of millions of COVID-19 rapid antigen tests to schools, with take-home kits for students for their families to use if they develop symptoms of illness.
The supplies “mark an important shift, as students will be offered in the coming weeks the opportunity to take home one five-test kit for their and their family’s future use if they were to become symptomatic,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said at a pandemic briefing Feb. 15.
Health Canada said while the kits are “safe and effective when used as intended,” there are chemical preservatives – such as sodium azide and Proclin – in many of the kits “that may be poisonous if swallowed or absorbed through the skin, particularly in children and pets.”
One parent whose daughter brought a kit home from Crescent Park Elementary last week said Monday (Feb. 28) that the kits should never have gone home with the younger students.
They are “definitely not something that should be sent home in backpacks,” said Michael Bjorge, noting his 10-year-old has two younger brothers, and that it’s not uncommon for young children to forget about things they bring home from school.
“I’m sure there’s a better way to do this.”
Bjorge contacted PAN after receiving a letter from the school principal. In it, she notes the school received its allotment of test kits last week, and that students were each sent home with one box.
After explaining the details of the Health Canada advisory, the principal asks parents to ensure their child “brought home all five tests and store these kits out of the reach of children and pets.”
Bjorge said his daughter’s mom “doesn’t want to have (the kit) around the house,” and plans to dispose of it.
The Health Canada advisory, he said, “is a red flag to me.”
He said Thursday that ensuring the kits were for parent-only pickup was the resolution he was looking for in contacting media.
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