Spotlight on teachers over low jab uptake

Monday, May 10th, 2021 12:00 |
TSC chief executive Nancy Macharia received Covid-19 jab, recently. Photo/PD/file

George Kebaso @Morarak

The government and teachers unions yesterday raised alarm over low uptake of Covid-19 vaccine among tutors after it emerged that only 41 per cent had taken the jab ahead of reopening of schools today.  

The Ministry of Health, in its daily briefing yesterday, indicated that only 143,525 out of the 337,432 teachers had turned up for the jab two months after the exercise started in the country.

Acting Director of Health Dr Patrick Amoth expressed frustrations over the apathy by teachers, calling on them to move fast and take the jab.

“Since March 5 when we kicked off this exercise up to date, only 41 per cent of teachers have come for this vaccine.

That was a reasonable time for those who have been given opportunity to be served so that they can also render their services as required,” Amoth said.

Teachers unions also weighed in with appeals to teachers to take the jab ahead of reopening of schools.

The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) and the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) warned that there was an urgent need for the educators to be vaccinated.

Knut Secretary General Wilson Sossion and his Kuppet counterpart Akelo Misori stated this will boost confidence in the sector as schools reopen for third term.

“A lot needs to be done to have more teachers vaccinated. As we re-open schools, it is important and almost a must for teachers to be vaccinated,” Sossion said, urging members to go for the jab to stem worries among Kenyans.

 “It was a voluntary decision to be vaccinated, but it is now becoming almost mandatory and urgent for all teachers to be vaccinated since they will be entrusted with the safety of learners,” he added.

He argued that it is difficult to explain how 58 per cent of teachers have not been vaccinated yet everyone looks up to them to be safe, in order to handle their children.  

At 41 per cent, perhaps the lowest in the three categories of the priority groups to be vaccinated against Covid-19, it is worrying that most of the teachers had not taken the jab.

This is despite parents and guardians expected to release their children to them today.

On his part, Misori urged the government to give priority to teachers’ vaccination in the next batch of vaccines due to threats of the Indian variant already reported in Kenya last week.

Health system

He said this even as uncertainty surrounds arrival of the second round of the AstraZeneca vaccine doses following an embargo by India, the source country, after its health system was overwhelmed by the new variant.

He, however, added that vaccination response was not only low among teachers, but also other disciplines, including ordinary Kenyans.

By yesterday, a total of 916,000 people had taken the jab, among them 534,836 persons above 58 years, 160,933 health workers and 77,381 security officers.

The United Nations Children Fund (Unicef) has been working with the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation on the ‘Pata Chanjo ya Tumaini’ (Get the Vaccine of Hope) campaign, which encourages people in the eligible groups to get vaccinated.

After starting with health workers, who are on the frontline in the fight against Covid-19 and initially, the first targets, Unicef notes that the criteria was expanded to include teachers, other essential workers and people above 58 years. 

Unicef Kenya’s Chief of Health Yaron Wolman said that so far, 75 per cent of eligible health workers had been vaccinated but only 41 per cent of teachers.

“And with schools expected to reopen on May 10, we are encouraging more teachers to come forward and get vaccinated,” he said emphasising that vaccines are safe and effective.

“Vaccines also provide a crucial extra layer of protection against Covid-19. This will help schools reopen safely, alongside other existing measures such as mask wearing, regular hand washing; good ventilation in classrooms and physical distancing.

“We are also asking parents over 58 years old to get vaccinated, so they can care for their children without the risk of severe disease, hospitalisation or death,” Wolman added.

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