Coronavirus | Vaccinate school staff on priority basis: Centre tells States

Coimbatore Corporation school teachers taking vaccines in a special drive conducted by the civic body. File   | Photo Credit: Siva Saravanan

The Centre has allocated more than two crore additional COVID-19 vaccines to States to vaccinate school teachers and non-teaching staff on a priority basis in the run-up to Teachers Day on September 5. These additional doses will be sent from August 27 to 31, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said on Wednesday.

This drive comes even as a technical advisory group on immunisation recommended a strategy to vaccinate children aged 12-17 years who have co-morbidities by October, followed by a roll out for all children in that age group once adults have been vaccinated.

There are almost 97 lakh teachers and though they were not listed among the frontline workers who received initial priority doses, NITI Aayog member VK Paul claimed earlier this month that almost 50% have already been vaccinated. The government’s top medical advisors have now urged that it is crucial for teachers, parents and school support staff to get vaccinated in preparation for the return of 25 crore children to school.

A majority of States have reopened schools for Classes 9-12 or plan to do so over the next month, while Gujarat has announced plans to restart schools from Class 6 onwards.

Protective ring

National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI) chief N.K. Arora said there is a definite push to open schools in a phased manner by ensuring that all those connected with educational institutions are vaccinated. “In schools, teachers, employees, bus drivers, whoever is coming in contact [should be vaccinated] so that there is a protective ring around children. Children don’t get severe disease or get very sick with COVID,’’ he said.

He said ZyCoV-D will be made available for 12-17 year olds in addition to adults by October and the idea is to vaccinate really sick children first. “Healthy children will be given vaccines only after adult immunisation is complete.’’ According to a senior Health Ministry official, India has around 12 crore adolescents in the age group of 12-18 years, of whom 1% are susceptible to severe COVID-19 infections and will be given priority for inoculation of the three-dose vaccine.

Dr. Arora confirmed that talks are also under way to chalk out the roadmap to introduce the DNA based Zydus Cadila vaccine in the general population.

Welcoming the allocation of doses for teachers, Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan indicated that this would be key to restoring a school education system which has been disrupted by the pandemic since March 2020.

“Along with securing our future generation against corona, this will prove to be a decisive step towards removing the obstacles in their studies due to this pandemic. I also request all the State governments to give their support and cooperation to this campaign to strengthen the foundation of the future,” he tweeted. The Ministry has previously said it did not plan to set any deadline for mandatory vaccination of teachers, though some States have put requirements in place for teachers before they start teaching classes.

“States and Union Territories have been asked to use Unified District Information System of Education (UDISE) data and coordinate with State Education Departments, Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan, Navodaya Vidyalaya Sangathan etc. to provide necessary fillip to this vaccination programme,’’ said the Health Ministry.

Targeted strategies

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan chaired a meeting with representatives of all States and Union Territories to review vaccination progress on Wednesday, advising them to focus on enhancing second dose coverage apart from the immunisation of school teachers and staff. He stressed the need to have a definite district level plan to increase second dose coverage and asked States to undertake targeted strategies like earmarking specific days, timings and sites, as well as exclusive queues to administer the second dose.

The Health Ministry has also asked States to identify districts whose vaccine coverage is lower than the State average and monitor as well as enhance progress of vaccination there. States were apprised of prompt utilisation of Emergency COVID Response Package (ECRP) funds. States were also advised to ensure compliance of COVID Appropriate Behaviour and other precautionary measures ahead of the upcoming festival season,’’ the statement said.

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Printable version | Oct 26, 2021 3:15:02 AM |

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