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Vaccination of All Teachers Unattainable by School Reopening Date

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Even after looking at the available statistics, Ismael Mulindwa, Director Basic Education and chairperson of the covid19 education response committee insist that as the president ordered, vaccination is being put one of the prerequisites of a teacher to be allowed in school premises.
Classrooms across the country are empty as the world battles COVID-19

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The government's wish of having all teachers in school be vaccinated by the time of reopening schools is practically unattainable due to limited vaccines. Statistics obtained from the health ministry indicate that by June 9, 2021, out of the targeted 550,000 teachers only 96,718 had received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

With the Ministry of Education and Sports' plan for all schools to reopen on July 19, 2021, the government need not less than 453,282 covid19 vaccine doses. But, at the moment the country has 175,200 doses that it plans to use to vaccinate teachers and persons getting their second dose.

If all the available vaccines are given to teachers, they still cannot even cover half of the un-vaccinated teachers. However, the assumption has also not been decided upon.

Even after looking at the available statistics, Ismael Mulindwa, Director Basic Education and chairperson of the Covid-19 education response committee insists that as the president ordered, vaccination is being put as one of the prerequisites of a teacher to be allowed in school premises.

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Hasadu Kirabira, teacher and school proprietor, says although they are aware of the importance of vaccination, tagging it to reopening means the government needs a detailed plan on how they will attain their objective than making statements.

“In the first phase, the government failed to sensitize teachers and uptake was low," says Kirabira. However, this time around everyone has appreciated the importance of being vaccinated but there are no vaccines. If the government insists, I envision a scenario where schools will have students without a teacher.”

Kirabira adds that as much as vaccination is highly important, if schools are to reopen within the set time frame, the government should start looking at other ways of making schools safer other than vaccination.  

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Filbert Baguma, the Secretary-General Uganda National Teacher Union-UNATU, says the onus is now on the government to provide the vaccines. "If the government wants all teachers vaccinated, they have to provide the vaccines, but vaccination of teacher does not guarantee that there will not be infections in schools," Kirabira. "Schools have more learners than teachers and maybe government needs to look at other efforts that target learners and not just the teachers."

However, health officials that URN spoke to intimated that they should not be blamed for teachers not being vaccinated. According to them, government endeavored to provide enough vaccines for all priority groups but some groups  like teachers decided not to get vaccinated.

Dr Monica Musenero, the senior presidential advisor on epidemics, says they are trying to see how to open schools during the time of vaccine challenges.  

“We had given these people the priority but they didn’t take it seriously," Musenero noted.  "If they had got their jabs as we had planned, these conversations wouldn’t be there. Now, there is little that we can do. The entire world lacks vaccines but we shall see what to do but it is not our fault.”

The World Health Organisation, recommends that countries such as Uganda with few doses of the vaccines  should first administer one dose of the vaccine to as many people as they can before issuing second doses. One jab of the vaccine can offer protection of up to 67 per cent. This protection according to Adrian Hill, principal investigator for the AstraZenneca Vaccine from Jenner Institute, Oxford University, can last for as long as 6 to 8 months.

However, due to the low uptake of the vaccine, Uganda decided to open up vaccination to all citizens. By the time uptake among teachers increased, there were less than 200,000 doses left. As such teachers had to compete with each other to get vaccines.  

Dr Alfred Driwale, the program manager of the Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunization says teachers were given the priority because of their nature of work. 

"Teachers interact with learners who come from different communities on daily basis. They can easily be infected by children (or vice versa) and pass on the disease to their families unknowingly," he said.     

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