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Punjab: Primary classes begin, but ‘no plan to vaccinate teachers yet’

A health official said considering that the vaccine cannot be administered to persons below 18 years of age, it was of utmost importance to vaccinate teachers before opening schools so that students were safe.

Written by Divya Goyal | Ludhiana |
Updated: January 28, 2021 2:18:31 pm
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The schools in Punjab reopened for classes 3 and 4 Wednesday after remaining shut for more than 10 months following the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak in March last year. While the government schools reported thin attendance, many private schools chose to remain shut for the primary wing.

Only 9 of total 136 class 3 students and three of 99 class 4 students reported at Government Primary School, Haibowal of Ludhiana. Similarly, just seven of 58 students in class-3 and six of 48 in class 4 attended school on day one at Government Primary School, Jahangirpuri.

However, even as the Punjab government is now all set to reopen schools for pre-primary, and classes 1 and 2 students from February 1, there is no proposal to vaccinate teachers in the ongoing vaccination drive against Covid-19.

A health official said considering that the vaccine cannot be administered to persons below 18 years of age, it was of utmost importance to vaccinate teachers before opening schools so that students were safe.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Dr GB Singh, director, health Punjab, said, “There are no instructions from the central government as of now to include teachers in the vaccination drive. We are covering healthcare workers in the first phase and the next proposed categories include frontline workers, population above 50 and population below 50 with comorbidities. There is no separate category for teachers as of now,” said Dr Singh.

Shivani Sood, head teacher, Government Primary School, Haibowal said that most parents are still hesitant to give consent for sending their children to school.

“Most children in our school are from poor families. The parents fear that if their child gets infected, they won’t be able to afford treatment. They still have many hesitations and questions in their mind regarding Covid. Very low attendance was reported in our school on day 1 for classes 3 and 4, Even for class 5 for which schools were opened from January 7, only 50 per cent students have started attending school,” she said. “Government should have vaccinated at least primary teachers who deal with children as young as 6 years,” she added.

Navita Puri, principal, Kundan Vidya Mandir (KVM), Ludhiana which did not open for classes 3 and 4, said, “We conducted counselling sessions for parents and nearly 50 per cent have given their consent to send children to school. We are opening for all primary classes from February 1 onwards. However, all teachers should have been vaccinated before opening the schools. It is shocking and sad that teachers have not been included in priority groups of beneficiaries.”

Dr Rajesh Bhaskar, nodal officer, Covid-19, said that as per the plan for the vaccination drive sent by the central government, four categories of the beneficiaries have been specified, which have to be covered on priority. “They includes healthcare workers, frontline workers, population above 50 and population below 50 with comorbidities. None of the categories include teachers,” he said.

Meanwhile, Punjab school education minister Vijay Inder Singla said that the state government was waiting for the central government’s advisory on phase-2 of vaccination. “For us, each teacher and each student’s health is important. We are waiting for advisory from the central government on phase-2 of the vaccination drive which includes frontline workers. If teachers aren’t included, we will find a way out to vaccinate them,” said Singla.

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