Provide vaccination status of students, staff, central universities told

In July, the central universities were asked to submit details of the vaccination status of their teaching and non-teaching staff.
This is the first time that the union government has sought details on the proportion of students vaccinated from its 43 central universities. (PTI)
This is the first time that the union government has sought details on the proportion of students vaccinated from its 43 central universities. (PTI)
Updated on Oct 23, 2021 04:29 AM IST
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By, New Delhi

On the day India achieved its landmark 1 billion vaccine doses, the union ministry of education sought a tentative timeline from central universities on achieving 100% vaccination coverage of their students and staff.

This is the first time that the union government has sought details on the proportion of students vaccinated from its 43 central universities. In July, the universities were asked to submit details of the vaccination status of their teaching and non-teaching staff.

The communication has significant public health implications as several universities, including Delhi University (DU), Banaras Hindu University (BHU) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), have started reopening campuses in a phased manner.

In a communication sent to all central universities on Thursday, October 21, the department of higher education of the ministry asked them to provide the status of vaccination among students, and teaching and non-teaching staff. It also asked for a date “by when the 100% vaccination is expected to be done” in the case of students and staff members.

Central Universities have also been asked whether they have resumed offline classes. “If still online, (provide) date by when the central university proposes to start physically,” the communication added.

According to data from the health ministry, in the 18-44 years age group, 402.2 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 119.9 million of this number are fully vaccinated.

Once the universities respond to Thursday’s message from the ministry, the latter will have the exact number of (central) university students who have been vaccinated.

Fully vaccinated people have significant protection against severe infection and hospitalisation. Vaccinating all students is an important step in universities returning to normalcy.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the ministry will make vaccines mandatory for students who are eligible for them (some freshmen and women are still 17 when they enter college, and India is yet to open up the vaccine drive for them, although this is expected to happen shortly, maybe within weeks).

“At a time when the government of India is making all possible efforts to achieve 100% vaccination coverage of the eligible population; it is crucial to compile a database of teachers and students vaccination coverage from the central universities. It will help universities in the strategic reopening of their campuses,” said an education ministry official who asked not to be named.

Officials at several central universities said while they already have some vaccination data of the staff, but not of students . “We could not compile any such data as of now since the university campus and college is still closed for students. We will now figure out how to compile data virtually; 98% of our staff members are already vaccinated,” said Nazim Hussain Jafri, Registrar, Jamia Millia Islamia. The university will reopen for final year students in November.

DU’s Dean of Colleges Balaram Pani said that the university will now ask all its colleges to collect data from students using Google forms. “The university is currently allowing only vaccinated final year students to attend labs and practical classes physically. We can only ensure 100% vaccination among eligible students once the university re-opens completely. Meanwhile, more than 95% of our staff members are fully vaccinated.”

Dr Chandrakant Lahariya, an epidemiologist and renowned public health expert, said that collecting data on the vaccination of college students aged is a welcoming step. “It is desirable that every eligible person is fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to stop the transmission. Specifically in university campuses and schools, the students are not only limited to the classrooms. They meet, engage and interact and therefore, the risk of transmission is there. However, one should not be deprived of their right to education due to the same,” he said.

Lahariya said that the data will also help the government to further strategise the reopening of education institutions. “It will help them make a differential strategy. For example, in case it’s found that in some university, there is lower coverage of vaccination then the government can help them strategise how to improve it,” he added.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Fareeha Iftikhar is a principal correspondent with the national political bureau of the Hindustan Times. She tracks the education ministry, and covers the beat at the national level for the newspaper. She also writes on issues related to gender, human rights and different policy matters.

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