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No shot for kids yet, so states aim to vaccinate teachers, staff to help reopen schools

Punjab has vaccinated nearly 60% of teaching & non-teaching staff with at least one dose; Karnataka says vaccination for teachers & parents will be compulsory before schools reopen.

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New Delhi: Vaccination has emerged as a key thrust area for states and Union territories looking to reopen schools. More than eight states and Union territories have reopened schools so far and some others are in the process of doing so.

While most states are following the regular protocols of staggered timing, calling students in shifts, and maintaining social distance, an additional safety measure this time is vaccination of teachers, school staff, and eligible students.

Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan told Parliament earlier this month that Lakshadweep, Puducherry, Nagaland, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh are among the states and union territories that have reopened schools as of 2 August. Schools in Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh reopened on 16 August.

Also read: 53% Indian parents willing to send kids back to school, up from 20% in June, survey finds

Vaccinating eligible group priority

Most states that have either reopened schools or plan on reopening soon are pushing for vaccination of their teachers and staff. The Punjab government vaccinated nearly 60 per cent of its teaching and non-teaching staff with at least one dose before reopening schools early this month, the state’s education minister Vijay Inder Singla told ThePrint.

“We were getting a lot of requests from parents to reopen schools, hence we decided to go ahead with it after taking an undertaking from them. Before we reopened the schools more than 57 per cent of our teaching and non-teaching staff were vaccinated. Apart from this, there is also a regular process of vaccinating those who are still left out,” Singla said.

Punjab is also trying to vaccinate students, who are above 18 years of age, during school hours, Singla said.

In Karnataka, Chief Minister Basavraj Bommai said vaccination for all teachers and parents will be compulsory before schools reopen from 23 August.

Meanwhile, almost 85 per cent of students above the age group of 18 years have been vaccinated with at least one dose in the state, the state’s higher education minister Dr Ashwathnarayan C.N. told ThePrint.

Maharashtra is also trying to ensure that teachers are vaccinated before schools reopen. The state was earlier supposed to reopen schools by 17 August, but there was a re-think after experts analysed health risks.

Dr Suhas Prabhu, the chair of the paediatric task force in the state, told ThePrint, “We had advised the government to reopen schools only when it has been able to reach out to all schools and ensure that all of them have been sanitised. In addition to this, it is advisable to reopen schools only when the number of active caseloads reduces.”

He said it was “imperative” that all teachers and school staff members are vaccinated before they join duty.

In Andhra Pradesh, schools reopened on 16 August, after Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy held a meeting with state officials on 23 July to take stock of the situation.

An SOP was issued by the chief minister’s office stating that schools would need to be sanitised and regular Covid hygiene was to be followed.

An official with the health department told ThePrint that the Andhra Pradesh government had been pushing for vaccination for teaching and non-teaching staff to ensure that physical classes could be held at the earliest.

According to state health and education data, about 92 per cent of teachers across 13 districts including Visakhapatnam, Krishna, Guntur and East Godavari have received at least one shot of the Covid vaccine.

No clarity yet on vaccination of kids below 18 years

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education has also been keeping a close watch on the vaccination of teachers across states.

Pradhan had told reporters last month that he would review the status of teachers’ vaccination across states.

However, there is no clarity so far on the vaccination programme for children below 18 years, with some vaccine makers conducting trials for this segment of the population.

This report has been updated following a revision of data by Karnataka, which now shows that 85 per cent of students aged 18 years and above have been vaccinated with at least one dose, up from 74 per cent.

(Edited by Paramita Ghosh)

Also read: Only 8% of minority students attend schools for minority communities, NCPCR report says


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