Govt to supply 20 million vaccine doses to vaccinate teachers by 5 September 

NEW DELHI: The union government on Wednesday said it will provide 20 million additional vaccine doses to states across the country to vaccinate teachers as physical classes resume for secondary and senior secondary students.

The health and education ministry said supply of the additional doses, over and above the vaccines being provided to states, will smoothen the process of school reopenings and provide safety to teachers and students. This is expected to be done by 5 September – Teachers’ Day.

The move comes as states are reopening schools especially for classes 9-12. Education minister Dharmendra Pradhan has said vaccinating teachers will reduce disruption of the sector that has been hit severely since March last year.

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“Besides the scheme of providing vaccines to every state this month, over 2 crore additional doses of vaccine are being made available. We have requested all states to try to get all school teachers vaccinated on priority, by 5th Sept – Teachers’ Day,” health minister Mansukh Mandaviya said Wednesday.

There are over 80 million teachers across the country, but it is believed that a majority of them have already got their vaccine over the past few months amid India’s vaccination drive. Though the country as a whole has not declared teachers as frontline workers, some states have given teachers the priority status considering their role in reopening of classes in schools.

Even the Unesco had urged countries, including India, to prioritise teachers for inoculation. “While the protection of teachers is essential for schools to reopen safely, just 21 out of 197 countries—accounting for 18 million primary and secondary teachers—prioritize teachers in the first phase of vaccination efforts. Another 37 countries include teachers as a priority group for the 2nd phase of vaccinations,” the UN body had said earlier this year.

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Schools and colleges have been allowed to reopen in a staggered manner by several states including Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Gujarat and Punjab. An expert committee has submitted a report to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal advising reopening of schools in the national capital.

While vaccination of teachers has been a concern, lack of doses for younger students have also been a topic of debate for months. No decision has been taken on allowing primary students to resume physical classes, given that vaccines for children below 12 years are not available as yet.

Indian schools closed on 15 March 2020, with most switching to online teaching. But this brought to focus the digital divide in the country, especially for students in rural India.

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