Vaccine education: Rolling out COVID-19 vaccines to Pakistan’s schools
In Pakistan, educational institutions are convincing parents to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19 through motivational sessions and informative material.
- 4 March 2022
- 4 min read
- by Saadeqa Khan
Asher Malik was sent home twice in a week in October 2021. His school management was not letting him in the classroom without his parents' written permission for the COVID-19 vaccination.
Asher was a student at Government High School Sargodha, Pakistan. His parents were hesitant about vaccination due to Asher's medical history: he has had heart issues since birth.
“In order to track vaccination records, the school administration is convincing parents in every possible way. After a couple of sittings, we figured out that parents are wading through a lot of misinformation to decide about immunisation.”
His parents rushed to the family doctor, who said that it is safe for Asher to get vaccinated and it would not have harmful effects on his health in the future.
Sajida Amin, the principal of Government High School Sargodha, says that all schools across Punjab welcomed COVID-19 vaccination as the decision was based on scientific assessment of local data. A high percentage of COVID-19 cases among children have been reported in over-12s.
“Asher Malik was a test case due to his medical history. Many parents had concerns about vaccination. They were unsure about the safety of different vaccines recommended by the Punjab health and education departments,” Sajida says.
The National Command Operation Centre (NCOC) shows that, by January 2022, more than 5.6 million children in Punjab have been vaccinated, equating to 91% of children in government schools and 87% in private schools.
Sindh province has been faring less well. The NCOC data reveals that more than 282,000 students in government schools and only 82,000 children in private schools across Sindh province of Pakistan have been vaccinated as of January 2022.
Pakistan is undergoing a renewed surge in COVID-19 cases with the onset of the highly transmissible Omicron variant. To contain COVID-19, the provincial government closed educational institutions for one week at the end of January 2022.
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Sindh Chief Minister Mumtaz Ali Shah ordered relevant authorities to take punitive actions against educational institutions that failed to vaccinate all the enrolled students within the stipulated deadline, specifically in rural parts of the province.
The Sindh education department has also issued warning notices to thousands of private schools that have not reported their immunisation data so far. The majority of these institutions are in Hyderabad, Sukkar, Nawab Shah and other small cities of Sindh.
The Principal of Maymar Public School Hyderabad, after wrapping up training sessions for selected school staff, proclaims: “We are kick starting motivational sessions for parents and students about the significance of COVID19 immunisation. I'm confident that all the enrolled students in our school and Hyderabad city will get their vaccine shots soon. No matter how much resistance we face from parents and guardians, the schools' management is ensuring full compliance with the provincial government.”
“In order to track vaccination records, the school administration is convincing parents in every possible way. After a couple of sittings, we figured out that parents are wading through a lot of misinformation to decide about immunisation,” says Zubair Ahmad, senior administrator at Herald Citi School, Karachi.
"’Vaccine confidence’ is the trust that parents should have in recommended vaccines. We are sharing material from trusted sources with the parents to address all their queries about immunisation. For every student, submitting a vaccination certificate is mandatory otherwise, they will not be able to write examination,” Zubair adds.
According to Zubair, the vaccination rollout in schools helps boost the morale of students and parents for on-campus classes.
He says, “We have set up two immunisation camps and, so far, 60% of our enrolled students have been vaccinated.”