A rapid COVID-19 test swab. Both PCR and rapid antigen tests will be available for travellers or the general public at the Comox Valley Airport. (Brittany Murray/The Orange County Register via AP)

A rapid COVID-19 test swab. Both PCR and rapid antigen tests will be available for travellers or the general public at the Comox Valley Airport. (Brittany Murray/The Orange County Register via AP)

Central Okanagan schools halt COVID test kits distribution

Action caused by Health Canada safety guidance advisory

  • Feb. 25, 2022 4:30 p.m.

A Central Okanagan School District initiative to distribute COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test kits to students this week has been temporarily suspended.

The suspension was outlined in school messages obtained by the Capital News sent to Springvalley Middle and Rutland Senior Secondary parents on Friday (Feb. 25) morning, deferring to further direction from the ministry of education.

The notices stated: “Due to recent information from the federal government, the distribution of the Rapid Antigen Tests Monday has been delayed.”

Attempts to get further clarification from the Ministry of Education were forwarded to the Ministry of Health but no further response has been given. Efforts to contact Interior Health for an explanation also received no response.

A further notice from Rutland Middle School (RMS) clarified the suspension action taken, saying it was not due to concerns over the safety of using these tests, but rather Health Canada guidance that the test kits be kept out of the reach of children.

“Any tests already distributed are safe to use and should be stored safely and used under parent supervision,” said the followup parent notice from RMS.

A public safety notice issued by Health Canada on Wednesday, Feb. 24, was a response to an increase in reports to poison control centres across the country, numbering about 50, an advisement was given about the potential risks associated with the misuse or accidental ingestion or spillage of COVID-19 rapid antigen test kit solutions on the skin.

“Health Canada has determined that the kits are safe and effective when used as intended,” said the Health Canada advisory.

“However, many test kits include liquid solutions with chemical preservatives, such as sodium azide and Proclin, that may be poisonous if swallowed or absorbed through the skin, particularly in children and pets.”

Sodium azide exposure in small doses can lower blood pressure, while larger doses may cause more serious health effects, says Health Canada.

Proclin contains chemicals that can cause skin and eye irritation, and sometimes allergic reactions.

More to come.

READ MORE: B.C.’s rural schools first for COVID-19 rapid testing for students

READ MORE: Rapid COVID-19 tests available for Vernon students

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