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Mumbai: Amid the spread of Delta Plus variant and the possibility of a third wave, the Pediatric Task Force Member Dr Samir Dalwai in an interview with Free Press Journal shares his views on vaccination and reopening of schools.

Q: A debate is underway on reopening of schools. What is your take?

A: Reopening schools does not mandate vaccinating each child. It is not necessary to make it a precondition to reopen schools. Because reopening schools has a completely different logic to it. In fact, UNICEF has been advocating the reopening of schools since long with a few mandatory provisions in place. Task forces as well as education boards and departments have listed a few things which are mandatory. In short, these are nothing but Covid-appropriate behaviour extrapolated into schools. Simple measures like wearing a mask at all times are the most important and must be mandatory. And hence, avoiding activities like intense sports need to be avoided. Similarly, maintaining social distance is mandatory; hence keeping schools on every alternate day for a child may be mandatory.

Q: What measures or SOP are needed?

A: Modifying the syllabus, the timetable, parallel online teaching for those who are at home that day, as well as ensuring that children do not playfully violate social distancing as far as possible – all this needs to be adapted and adopted. Maintaining thermal checks on entry to school for all as well as having a small school clinic wherein we can immediately send a child who develops a fever after coming to school is mandatory. How to organise all this is to be left to local school committees- they need to enable all these facilities, set up local SOPs and most importantly, monitor their implementation very strictly. If any child is diagnosed with Covid, the others need to be quarantined mandatorily for 14 days.

Q: When can schools reopen?

A: That schools should reopen as soon as all these provisions are in place is not even the matter of any discussion. The narrative around school reopening should shift from ‘when’ to ‘how’. Start implementing these measures today. Take the parents and children into confidence. Train the teachers and staff. Make a checklist. Most schools are already open because 50% of teachers have been attending. So, it should not be difficult.

Q: What is your view on Covid-19 vaccination for children?

A: It is important to understand that Covid vaccination for children is vital – but perhaps in the long run. A sero survey showed that more than 50% of children in Mumbai had developed natural immunity. This is herd immunity, where each of us who is immune helps protect each other and all those who are not yet immune.

Parallelly, efforts for vaccinating children should be stepped up. Once available, advise parents to start vaccinating their children. We should not make the mistake of linking Covid vaccination to school reopening.

Published on: Sunday,August 29, 2021, 02:28 AM IST

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