NORTH BAY -- The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit said Thursday it would like to see students back in classrooms as soon as it's safe.

Officials made the comments during the health unit's weekly virtual COVID-19 news conference.

“Being able to attend in-person learning has shown to be most beneficial for children and youth in terms of their academic performance, their emotional, social and physical well being and it really also provides, for some children in our community, a safe place,” said Louise Gagne, executive director of community services.

“I think the priority from the health unit’s perspective is getting schools reopened,” said Dr. Carol Zimbalatti. "Of course we will follow provincial guidance on that, but that is what we are really advocating for."

The health unit said more than 60 per cent of those aged 18 and older in the district have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Children ages 12-17 are now eligible to receive their first dose. The health unit told CTV News those who sign up for an appointment will receive their shot the second or third week of June.

The health unit is also asking parents of those ages 12-17 to call the health unit on the day of their child’s vaccine appointment to ensure there is a Pfizer dose ready for the child.

“The only vaccine that children aged 12 to 17 are eligible to receive is the Pfizer vaccine. Moderna is not approved by Health Canada for 12 to 17 year olds,” said Andrea McLellan, from the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit.

“We are not necessarily able to pre-plan what vaccine will be available. When we have challenges from the supply point of view, we may need to change vaccines in order to be able to move forward with that clinic.”