5000 school teachers, staff not vaccinated in Kerala
Many health activists and teachers’ organisations have suggested organising a proper awareness drive to convert the reluctant ones
The Kerala government is considering taking action against around 5,000 school teachers and non-teaching staff in the state who have chosen not to take an anti Coronavirus vaccine, mostly owing to their religious believes, state education minister V Sivankutty said on Sunday, citing the need to provide schoolchildren a protected environment against Covid 19.
“We have started collecting data on this. There is a standing instruction that unvaccinated teachers will not be allowed to take classes. Teachers are role models and the government views their attitude seriously,” said the minister. There are around 160,000 school teachers and 25,000 non-teaching employees in the state.
“Children’s safety is our main concern. We can’t justify action of these unvaccinated teachers. We will give [them] some more time [to comply] otherwise the government will act against them,” the minister said in the state capital. He said besides their beliefs, some of the reluctant lot skipped vaccination citing their poor health. Majority of these unvaccinated school employees are from north Kerala districts.
Many health activists and teachers’ organisations have suggested organising a proper awareness drive to fight against vaccine hesitancy. “A modern society can’t accept this. Some of the religious states like Saudi Arabia and Vatican are carrying out the jabbing exercise strictly. No religion supports such an attitude,” said public health expert Dr Pamanabha Shenoy.
Some of the teachers’ organisations too have decried the rejection of vaccination . “All teachers should take jabs and we will support any initiative in this regard,” said Kerala Pradesh School Teachers’ Association leader M Salahuddin. Many urged religious leaders to give an open call supporting vaccination.
Mistrust or aversion towards vaccines, especially in Muslim-majority areas, is not a new phenomenon in Kerala. Even before the pandemic outbreak, the Left Front government led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), had instructed all educational institutions to make basic vaccination compulsory for enrolling children in schools.
In 2017, the government constituted a 17 member expert panel headed by Dr B Ekbal to chalk out a comprehensive health policy. One of the key recommendations of the panel was to make vaccination compulsory for children. While enrolling children, parents will have to produce details of vaccines administered to their wards.
In Kerala, among the eligible population, 96% have received the first dose of the anti-Covid 19 vaccine and 65% have received both the doses, according to the health ministry data. The state has been among the worst Covid-19 affected states in the country with 39,679 infected related deaths, second only to Maharashtra. On Saturday, the state reported 4,741 Covid cases taking its active caseload to 48,501.