Children 12 years and older to get Covid jabs

September 5, 2021

Govt plan strewn with challenges, analysts say
The government is planning to inoculate children aged 12 and above against Covid-19.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque revealed the plan yesterday after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday said school students will be given Covid shots in line with the World Health Organisation protocols.
After nearly one and a half years of online education, schools and colleges will bring students back to their classrooms from September 12. But it is not known when the authorities will begin to vaccinate the children.
Contacted, Infectious Disease Specialist Prof Ridwanur Rahman, said vaccinating children depends on the availability of shots. The reality doesn’t support the plans.
“The mass inoculation is not systematic yet. We must first inoculate the vulnerable groups to reduce deaths. The countries that decided to vaccinate children have already inoculated the vulnerable groups. We should also do the same,” he said.
Only about 22 countries have approved or started giving Covid shots to children younger than 18.
The minister on Thursday said the government was considering whether to vaccinate students aged below 18 with Pfizer and Moderna shots.
Different vaccines for children are being trialed in different countries. But the World Health Organisation’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts endorses only the Pfizer/BionTech vaccine to be given to children as young as 12.
Bangladesh has so far received only 1 million shots of the two-dose Pfizer vaccine. It is not known when the next shipment of the vaccine will arrive in the country. Administering this particular vaccine also has its own challenges in rural settings because of its rather strict cold-chain requirements.
The country has now the capacity to store over 1 crore doses of the Pfizer vaccine after receiving 26 special fridges from Unicef last week.
Besides, there has been frequent hiccups in the country’s regular mass inoculation campaigns mostly because of shortage of doses. The government could not continue the special vaccination campaign held from August 7-12 because of the shortage of doses.
Talking to reporters after an event in the capital, Health Minister Zahid Maleque yesterday said, “People aged 18 and above can get any [Covid-19] vaccine, but those below 18 cannot be given just about any vaccine.”
The health department has been allowing students aged 18 and above to register for vaccination since August 20. For others, the minimum age for registration is 25.
He added, “There is a guideline of WHO on vaccinating children aged 12 and above and we have seen that many countries, especially America and Britain are giving Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to children. We will follow the process [adopted in other countries].”
Switzerland, Norway, San Marino, Spain, Lithonia, Italy, Hungary, France, Germany, Austria and Estonia are either planning or have approved giving Covid shots to children.
Asian countries like China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, the Philippines, the UAE, Palestine, Pakistan, and India are also considering the possibilities.
If Bangladesh is to vaccinate every child aged 12 and above, it will need two shots for each of the secondary-level students and many other out-of-school children in this age group.
The health minister on Thursday said that there are around 1.5 lakh students in different medical and dental colleges and technical institutions across the country.
The government currently has around 1.79 crore doses of mostly of the Sinopharm vaccines.
Education Minister Dipu Moni on Friday said the government was trying to get hold of the vaccines suitable for children aged 12-17.
In another development, Professor Kazi Shahidullah, chairman of the University Grants Commission, told this newspaper that the commission would consider if any university authority expresses willingness to reopen its campus even before October 15, the date set earlier for resuming in-person classes.
He added that the resident students must have at least one shot of a Covid-19 vaccine and the national positivity rate must be between 5 and 7 percent.
Dipu Moni on Friday said it was decided that universities would reopen in mid-October but if the authorities of a university want to reopen sooner, they can do it after September 12.
Dipu Moni yesterday told reporters in Chandpur that the government had specific plans to make up for the losses in learning due to the pandemic.
On campus classes were suspended on March 17, 2020 to curb the spread of Covid-19.

-With The Daily Star input

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