Reopening schools: Govt to vaccinate 310,000 students

Students report to school at Luzira Secondary School on October 14 last year, after government opened schools for candidate classes. PHOTO/DAVID LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • Tertiary institutions are likely to reopen in November.

Up to 310,000 students in tertiary institutions will be vaccinated to pave way for the reopening of schools as Cabinet makes a final decision on the prolonged lockdown today, sources in government revealed. 

The sources, who talked to Daily Monitor yesterday on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said tertiary institutions will be reopened first by November because of relatively low risk of Covid-19 spread but students will have to be vaccinated. 

The sources said reopening primary and secondary schools will follow depending on how fast government vaccinates the population and that this will likely be next year. 

“As we ramp up vaccination, it is easier and safer for us [as government] to begin the reopening with those in tertiary institutions because they are fewer, only 310,000, compared with over 13 million in secondary and primary,” a source said. 

The source added that if the students are vaccinated, the tertiary institutions will reopen in a phased manner. 
“For instance most universities prefer to start with First Year students while vocational institutions are saying they will start with finalists,” the source said. 

Another source said during the National Covid-19 Taskforce meeting with President Museveni last week, “there were projections from the National Planning Authority that depending on the number you have opened, the number of cases will increase by a certain percent. For example, NPA said if you reopen for tertiary, the numbers will increase by eight percent and for secondary it will be around 13 percent.” 

Earlier, Prof Henry Kajumbula, the head of infection control and prevention in the government scientific advisory committee on Covid-19, said: “Tertiary institutions can be monitored more easily than when you get the rest of the children [in primary and secondary] back.”

A September 17 letter from Dr Henry Mwebesa, the director general of Health services to all Resident District Commissioners, states that learners of 18 years and above should be prioritised in the vaccination exercise.
“The Ministry of Health is providing the necessary vaccines and logistics for this exercise,” he said. 
Dr Dennis Mugimba, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Education, yesterday said the Ministry of Health confirmed that they have enough Covid-19 vaccines for the students. 

“The 18-year-olds we are prioritising are those learners who are in tertiary institutions. Others are being vaccinated already,” he said. 

The new plan comes at a time when only 237,930 teachers have been vaccinated and 88,825 have received two doses, according to government statistics. 

The target is to vaccinate 550,000 teachers. Government has warned that teachers, who are not vaccinated, will not be allowed to teach when schools reopen.

Earlier, government scientists were divided on the issue of vaccinating young people before the high risk groups of 4.8 million are vaccinated. 

Currently only about 1.6 million (about 35 percent), from the high risk groups are vaccinated. 

Dr Alfred Driwale, the head of the immunisation programme at the ministry, said their initial plan was to vaccinate those who are at higher risk of developing severe diseases.

“Critical number that we want to vaccinate as a matter of urgency to reduce death is about 4.5 million people. If we have not yet vaccinated all of them, should we add another group?” Dr Driwale said. 

“These decisions we are making [on whether or not to include learners] require resources and also remember that global vaccine stock is in short supply. How this will be implemented requires discussions with partners, within the Ministry of Health, scientific advisory committee, and the Ministry of Education,” he added.

He couldn’t be reached for a comment yesterday on what informed the incorporation of students into the priority groups.

Hopeful...Covid vaccines
More than 455,095 doses of Covid-19 vaccines are in districts across the country and another 647,080 doses of Moderna are yet to be dispatched, according to the Ministry of Health.

The government is expecting more doses of Covid-19 vaccines today.