'Vaccinating kids will take up to 9 months...': Dr Randeep Guleria backs reopening of schools

Currently, only one Covid-19 vaccine has been authorised for an age group below 18 while inoculation drive for children is yet to be announced.
Schools have reopened in almost all the states (Image used for representative purpose)
Schools have reopened in almost all the states (Image used for representative purpose)
Updated on Sep 02, 2021 10:49 AM IST
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By, New Delhi

AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria has backed reopening of schools across the country even as questions remain over how students will be kept safe from the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) as vaccination drive for those under the age of 18 is yet to be announced. Dr Guleria told India Today that it will take up to nine months to vaccinate all the children and schools cannot be kept closed till then.

“Schools cannot be kept shut till the middle of next year,” the senior doctor said, adding that educational institutes should not be opened in Kerala, which is reporting more than 30,000 Covid-19 cases daily. However, in places like Delhi where the positivity rate is low, now is the “best time” to reopen schools, he added.

Elaborating his stand, Dr Guleria explained, “I support reopening of schools because physical interaction is important for kids. Also, many of them simply do not have the means to avail education online.”

The AIIMS director suggested steps to ensure the safety of children in schools. “All staff members should be vaccinated. Steps should be taken to ensure that no crowding takes place when children are entering the campus or leaving it, as well as during lunchbreak. However, a school should be closed if a cluster of cases is reported from there,” Dr Guleria said.

He also backed the resumption of physical classes for students in junior standards, who, he said, are not “that vulnerable to Covid-19.” On a vaccine for children, he said Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech will apply for regulatory approval for the use of its jab, Covaxin, on children in the coming days. The firm, Dr Guleria said, is likely to receive approval this month itself.

ZyCoV-D, the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Ahmedabad-based Zydus Cadila, is the only shot to have received Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) for an age group below 18, having been approved for beneficiaries aged 12 and above.

Dr Guleria’s stand backing the reopening of schools is, meanwhile, in contrast to those taken by his AIIMS colleague Dr Navneet Wig and Medanta chairperson Dr Naresh Trehan.

With the second Covid-19 wave declining, schools, for senior classes, restarted in July and August. Those in other states began reopening from September 1.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2022