As schools gear up to reopen, focus shifts to vaccinating staff

Block-wise list of all institutions and employees is being prepared to ensure complete coverage in all districts

Updated - July 31, 2021 10:43 am IST

Published - July 31, 2021 01:18 am IST - CHENNAI

With the State government exploring the possibility of reopening schools for higher classes, the focus has turned to vaccinating teaching and non-teaching staff. Though several teachers had been vaccinated while on poll duty, the Health Department is now taking measures to reach out to those left out.

While the School Education Minister had recently said the State was mulling reopening schools for Classes IX to XII, the School Education Department on Thursday also announced that teachers from government and aided schools would be required to come to school from August 2 onwards.

Health officials said a significant number of teachers were already vaccinated while on poll duty. “Most of the teachers were covered during polling. Any teacher who has been left out will be requested to come to a nearby primary health centre to get vaccinated. This will be taken care of by the respective Deputy Directors of Health Services,” said T.S. Selvavinayagam, Director of Public Health and Preventive Medicine.

About 40%-50% of teachers were vaccinated while on polling duty, and this percentage could vary from district to district.

“The understanding of the importance of vaccination has improved. All want to get vaccinated, and we are reaching out to them,” M. Sangeetha, Deputy Director of Health Services, Cheyyar District Health Unit, said.

Through the District Education Office, measures to get a list of schools — elementary, high and higher secondary — at the block-level have been taken up. “We have the contact details of headmasters of these schools. We will ask them for a list of teachers and non-teaching staff, such as office and housekeeping employees. We will check if they have been vaccinated. We will compile details of those with comorbidities, such as diabetes and hypertension, and vaccinate them on a priority basis,” she said.

The Deputy Director said children are likely to spend six to eight hours a day in a school. “We need to vaccinate everyone around children. This should be augmented with masking and maintaining physical distancing, which would make the school environment safe for children,” she added.

K.P.O. Suresh, president, Tamil Nadu Post Graduate Teachers Federation, said while many teachers on polling duty were vaccinated earlier this year, the School Education Department had not conducted vaccination camps for teachers following that in many areas.

Vaccination camps

“There will be more teachers willing to take the jab now since there is more awareness. Along with the COVID-19 prevention norms that are to be implemented on school campuses when they reopen, vaccination camps too can be conducted for teachers,” he said.

While some private schools were able to get their teachers vaccinated by organising camps on campuses or at hospitals nearby, many others have individually gone and taken the jab while schools remained shut.

“If schools are to be reopened, it is best to ensure that all teachers are vaccinated. For private schools, vaccination camps can be organised for clusters of around five to six schools jointly to ensure that all teaching and non-teaching staff get vaccinated,” said R. Visalakshi, president, Tamil Nadu Private Schools Association.

P.K. Ilamaran, president of the Tamil Nadu Teachers Association, said while reopening schools for senior classes should be the first priority, the government should also begin to formulate a plan for reopening primary and middle school sections.

Mr. Ilamaran, who is a teacher in a Corporation school, said that the Greater Chennai Corporation had organised vaccination camps for teachers, and nearly all of them had been vaccinated in the same.

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