A section of teachers in Delhi have voiced concerns over their involvement in the measles-rubella (MR) vaccination drive, set to commence in city schools in two weeks, with many questioning if the school system should be used as a site to implement a “health administrative exercise”.
The first two weeks of the drive, to begin on January 16, is for students up till the age of 15. According to a Directorate of Education (DoE) circular dated December 19, 2018, since the MR campaign is a central government policy, no consent is required from beneficiaries and their parents. A December 24 circular on the same states: “For vaccination sessions in educational institutes/schools, teachers and parents will play a key role in ensuring that targeted students are well informed and immunised during the campaign.”
Teachers have been told to be part of the vaccination teams, along with the designated health workers, and to create awareness and sensitisation regarding the vaccine among students and parents in all government, government-aided and unaided recognised schools in Delhi. However, some teachers have expressed their discomfort about being placed at the forefront of the drive. “I have been asked to tell parents that this vaccine is safe when I myself do not know enough about this. We are trained as teachers, not health functionaries.
Without training and knowledge, how can we tell parents that it is alright?” said a teacher at a North MCD school. “There is a certain level of trust that parents have in us, and we are recognisable faces in this exercise. If, by any chance, something happens, they will turn to us. They should use schools and classrooms for administering the campaign, if they must, but not us teachers,” the teacher added. A teacher at a private school also said she was uncomfortable convincing parents about this.
“I am not convinced that this campaign is essential, and we have read many news reports of children falling ill after receiving the vaccine in Maharashtra and Gujarat. Since it is a central government scheme, there is no room for us to resist. But many students and parents have also voiced their reluctance and I am expected to placate them without information or conviction,” she said, adding that teachers in her school had not yet received any kind of orientation about the vaccination.
Director of Education Sanjay Goel said, “We have not received any complaint or experienced resistance from any school so far. As for orientation, one nodal officer per school — who might be a part of the teaching or non-teaching staff — is receiving the same as the vaccine is being administered by a health functionary.”