All Quebec schools could be equipped with epinephrine injectors

All Quebec schools could be equipped with epinephrine injectors

Quebec’s Education and Health ministries are developing a framework for school-based care, according to La Presse canadienne.

Part of this guide for educational institutions will concern the distribution and administration of medication in emergency situations, including epinephrine injectors, more commonly known by their trade name EpiPen.

This framework would recommend that each school have an injector. Currently, only a few schools have one available, but it’s students who have allergies who are legally responsible for bringing their own injectors.

The measure echoes a petition tabled in the National Assembly by Sylvie D’Amours, the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) MNA for Mirabel, who asked that it is the responsibility to provide injectors fall on elementary schools.

But CAQ members of the standing Committee on Culture and Education refused to take up this matter on Wednesday because of the work already underway on this topic, according to an email from the office of the government whip.

Currently, food products in cafeterias, vending machines, snacks brought by students and meals provided by catering services are monitored for the presence of allergens at school, a spokesperson for the Education Ministry said in an email.

But according to Allergies Québec, an association that promotes safety for people with food allergies, nine foods are responsible for about 90 per cent of allergic reactions, making the project “utopian.”

“It is almost impossible to exclude them,” said Dominique Seigneur, the group’s director of communications and development.

Some school service centers and school boards have also implemented intervention protocols in the event of anaphylactic shock.

However, no universal measure is applied across Quebec — the only province in the country that has not legislated such a response.

In search of necessary leadership

Each school is doing its best to manage the situation, according to Allergies Québec, which has been campaigning for more than 15 years for the adoption of a standardized, general framework.

School efforts have led to “ducious practices, such as keeping auto-injectors at the reception office, rather than within immediate reach of the allergic person, or even ineffective measures such as banning certain foods and isolating allergic students during meals,” read an open letter co-signed by the organization on March 21 — Quebec Food Allergy Day.

Allergies Québec notes all political parties have a marked interest in this issue, especially since an estimated 75,000 schoolchildren have one or more food allergies and that about one serious allergic reaction out of five happens in schools.

“Our file is well received and no one is against this desire to supervise young people, but it is as if we had no file holder. We can’t get the necessary leadership to move things forward. It’s mysterious,” Seigneur said.

In June 2018, the Parti Québécois, which then formed the official opposition, had tabled a bill so that Quebec would legislate to impose a universal protocol in the event of a serious allergic reaction. The health minister at the time, Liberal MNA Gaétan Barrette, had raised the topic of providing all schools with an EpiPen.

In 2019, the health minister under the CAQ, Danielle McCann, opposed mandating a single protocol, saying she preferred “a guide to good practices,” as reported in Le Soleil.

common sense

Like defibrillators, which are becoming increasingly accessible in public places, or even fire extinguishers in the event of a fire, injectors should be available to schoolchildren, as are first aid kits in the event of a minor injury, said the Regroupement des comités de parents autonomes du Québec (RCPAQ).

“It’s a fundamentally good idea. I see no argument to support the contrary,” Sylvain Martel, strategic advisor and spokesperson for the RCPAQ, said in an interview with La Presse canadienne. “There are ideas that don’t need to be thought about for years to make sense.”

Martel, however, said it was wrong to think that offering epinephrine injectors in schools would remove the burden of carrying one from students, as the petition suggests.

“It’s a great idea to have them in schools, in case a student’s expires, but keep in mind that kids who really need an EpiPen are going to be carrying one around with them everywhere they go, whether it’s walking to school, on the bus , or going to friends’ houses.”