The decision to reopen schools, which are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has to be taken cautiously amid the ongoing "unpredictable situation", said VK Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog.
Addressing the Union Health Ministry's media briefing on the COVID-19 situation in India, Paul said, “the decision has to be taken cautiously and we should take risks only when we are protected.”
“School is a crowd, a medium or large gathering, which gives an opportunity for virus to infect. So, we should take that risk only when we are rather better protected, virus is suppressed and we are able to sit at a distance. But it is not easy to take this decision to open schools when an unpredictable situation is prevalent,” said Paul.
He further said that the virus is suppressed at present due to discipline and restrictions prevalent in many states. “If we ease restrictions and open schools, then the virus gets opportunities to infect,” he added.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
Meanwhile, a survey by LocalCircles revealed that the percentage of parents who will send their children to school whenever it reopens has reduced from 69 percent to 20 percent in 4 months amid the growing evidence that the new strain of coronavirus is more harmful to children.
In a survey by LocalCircles in January 2021, 69 percent of parents were in favour of school reopening in April 2021. This number has significantly dropped to 20 percent of parents in India who wanted to send their children to schools if they were to open in July 2021.
The survey further showed that vaccination hesitancy among parents has reduced. While 26 percent of Indian parents approved of the vaccine for their children in January 2021, the number has increased to 65 percent in June 2021.
In a related development, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia has said that students will not be called to schools anytime soon keeping in mind their safety and security in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Keeping in mind the security and safety of children, we are not calling students back to school anytime soon,” Sisodia said on June 21.Follow our full coverage on COVID-19 here.