MOE: All teachers to get Covid-19 jab

All teachers in Kenya are set to be vaccinated following a presidential order issued on April 15, 2021, Education CS Prof George Magoha has confirmed.

Speaking at Mitihani House in Nairobi on April 15, 2021, Education CS George Magoha confirmed a change in the vaccination policy for teachers, which will see all of them vaccinated regardless of age.

Prof Magoha said President Uhuru Kenyatta had ordered that all teachers to be included in the vaccination programme.

“This morning the president has directed that all teachers and support staff in our schools be allowed to take part in the Covid-19 vaccination programme as part of the measures to ensure that our schools are safe from the virus,” said Prof Magoha during a press conference to announce the KCPE results in Nairobi.

Kenyan teachers are effectively classified as high priority vaccine recipients along with health care workers, members of the disciplined forces, the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions putting them at high risk of infection.

Prior to the March presidential directive, Kenya had also put teachers in a high priority group, after health care workers and security personnel but before those with possible comorbidities and over 58 years old.

The directive will result in significantly higher numbers of teachers getting booked for vaccination  

Kenya’s vaccination statistics as at April 15, 2021 stand at 616,166 people. Of these, 346,097 were male while 269,816 were females.

According to Ministry of Health statistics read by Health CAS Dr Rashid Aman on April 15, 2021, the total number of health workers so far vaccinated was 132,537.

“The total number of health workers is 132,537. From the security forces, 48,859 members have been vaccinated, along with 92,246 teachers that have received the vaccine,” said Dr Aman.

The presidential directive will come as a great relief to the teaching fraternity, which has so far lost 44 members to the pandemic.

Speaking on March 31, 2021, Teachers’ Service Commission chief executive office Nancy Macharia,  a total of 41 and three TSC staffers teachers have so far succumbed to Covid-19.

Kenya’s efforts to combat the pandemic in the pandemic sector received a boost from a USD 140,000 donation made by the USD Global Partnership for Education in March 2020.

 In a joint video message, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay and Education International’s General Secretary David Edwards emphasized on the inclusion of teachers in all countries’ vaccination programs.

“Reopening schools and education institutions safely and keeping them open as long as possible is an imperative. In this context, as we see positive developments regarding vaccination, we believe that teachers and education support personnel must be considered as a priority group,”the two said.

By March 2020, the Teacher Task Force had made an international Call for Action on Teachers to recommend important steps that countries should take to protect teachers in the global war against the pandemic.

The measures included the “protection of teachers’ and students’ health, safety and well-being”.

The position was reiterated at the October 2020 UNESCO 2020 Extraordinary session of the Global Education Meeting, which saw heads of state and ministers commit to support all teachers and education personnel as frontline workers and to prioritize their health and safety.

Despite the urgent need to protect teachers and other education staff, The Teacher Task Force has lamented that teachers in some countries have not been included in priority vaccination groups at the highest risk of infection.

The situation has further been compounded by the of slow global rollout of Covid d-19 vaccines.

In a move that will safeguard the country’s education workforce, Kenya placed teachers in the priority group as it kicked off the fist phase of the vaccination campaign targeted at vaccinating 1.12 million people.

It joins New Delhi in India, where all personnel, including teachers, actively involved in the city’s COVID-19 management efforts have been identified for priority vaccination as front line workers.

Rwanda has committed itself to the vaccination of teachers, having received 347,000 doses of the Covax vaccines in March 2021.

“Teachers and lecturers are among the frontline workers being vaccinated against COVID-19,”said a Rwandese ministry statement.

To prepare for the new school year, Chile has vaccinated 513,000 teachers and education workers in the first two weeks of March 2021

Teachers in Vietnam are also given higher priority and will be vaccinated alongside senior citizens and people with chronic illnesses, along with diplomats and essential service workers.

Other countries including ArgentinaColombiaTurkey and the United Kingdom have listed teachers in the second priority group. In the UK, this group also includes first emergency responders, the military, those working in the justice system, transport workers and public servants essential to the pandemic response.

Opponents of this ranking system have launched an online petition urging Parliament to prioritize teachers, child care  and school staff.

Teachers in South Africa are part of a second-tier priority group made up of almost 17 million people.

The group includes people aged 60 and above, people with various underlying conditions, essential workers such as police officers and persons in probable crowded settings such as prisons and shelters.

In Indonesia, teachers are included in the second priority group along with the elderly in the national rollout plan that is set to vaccinate 5 million teachers by June 2021

Bangladesh announced in early February that all primary teachers would be vaccinated in early February 2021. From March, all teachers below 40 registered on the health directorate’s list are eligible to sign up online to receive the vaccine. 

The United States has asked all states to prioritize teachers in vaccination efforts. The move is part of an objective to give all pre-primary and secondary teachers as well as child care workers their first doses by the end of March.

The Ministry of Education in Singapore also announced that it would begin vaccinating 150,000 teachers and other staff in educational institutions as from early March, 2021.

Teachers in Uganda will be included in the second priority group after health care workers and security personnel.

In other countries such as Italy and Brazil, teachers are languishing at lower positions in national vaccine rollout plans.

Brazil’s decision to group teachers with security workers and prison staff sparked strikes in Sao Paulo that were protesting the health concerns and risks that teachers have to face in schools.

As Kenya awaits the second batch of vaccines that are expected to land in the country in May 2021, it is hoped that teachers will get vaccinated and acquire the much needed protection against Covid-19 disease as the new school term begins.

FEATURED PHOTO: TSC CEO Dr. Nancy Macharia being vaccinated on March 11th during the launch of the teachers’ Covid -19 vaccination program at the commission’s headquarters. While taking the vaccine, the Commission Secretary called on teachers to take advantage of this exercise. PHOTO/Courtesy.

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