Vaccination drive for students ahead of reopening colleges, varsities: West Bengal Govt

The state Health and Family Welfare department on Wednesday issued a notification to district magistrates and chief medical officers of health, detailing its plan to vaccinate students.

The state government, which is considering reopening colleges, universities and other centres of higher learning in November, after the conclusion of festivities around Durga Puja and Diwali, has decided to conduct a massive vaccination drive for students in the coming days and weeks. The aim, said officials, is to ensure safe resumption of offline academic activity and learning.

The state Health and Family Welfare department on Wednesday issued a notification to district magistrates and chief medical officers of health, detailing its plan to vaccinate students. A copy of the notification also went out to the principal secretary of the state Higher Education Department.

According to health officials, as many as 5,68,212 students across 545 colleges and universities haven’t received even a single dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. However, another 3,54,777 students enrolled at centres of higher learning require only a second dose.

Till date, the state has administered 5.2 crore (both first and second taken together) doses.

“Amid the planned resumption of offline classes at colleges and universities, it has been decided that all eligible students enrolled for higher learning will be vaccinated at the earliest,” Dr. Ajay Chakraborty, the state’s director of health services, said.

The vaccination drive will be organised jointly by the Health and Higher Education departments. The health department is already understood to have directed all colleges, universities and other institutes of higher learning to hold necessary meetings with all stakeholders, including representatives of these institutes, for timely planning and effective implementation of this vaccination programme. The drive may be carried out either at the existing vaccination centres or on campuses of such institutions subject to the fulfilment of all requisite criteria of a CVC.

The centres of higher learning in the state have been closed since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. “It is a welcome step. The state government had asked us to provide a database of students which we already have. It is a very good initiative. It isn’t feasible to reopen the university canteens and hostel without vaccinating the students. We’re happy that the government has planned to take this initiative. We have already vaccinated all our varsity staff,” Anuradha Lohia, vice-chancellor of Presidency University. told The Indian Express.

While the CMOHs concerned are likely to arrange vaccines and those administering them, other logistics and manpower will be pooled from the available resources of these institutes. District education officers (DEOs) will take care of data entry and the HRs will be tasked with ensuring order at the queues and overall vaccine management, sources said. The health department has also directed the institutes concerned to work out the schedules for coordination meetings. “You are, accordingly, requested to expedite Covid-19 vaccination of all these eligible students,” read a portion of the notification issued by the health department.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had recently talked up the possibility of educational institutes reopening after Puja holidays. The Durga Puja festival will kick off on October 11 and culminate on October 17.

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