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MOH Plans COVID-19 Vaccination in Schools as Cases Start Piling

Health Minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, told URN that after two years of closure they don’t plan to send children back home due to infections but use other strategies such as periodic random testing and vaccination to manage transmission.

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The Ministry of Health (MOH) is planning to start immunizing children aged 12 to 17 against COVID-19.

Although the majority of COVID-19 vaccines were initially approved for use in adults aged 18-years and above, an increasing number of vaccines are now also being authorized for use in children. So far, countries have received approval to use Pfizer-BioNTech in children ages 5-15 years old and full approval to use in people ages 16 years and older

Health Minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng,  told URN that after two years of closure they don’t plan to send children back home due to infections but use other strategies such as periodic random testing and vaccination to manage transmission. 

But she didn’t divulge details of when exactly or which vaccines they are going to use in the exercise.

//Cue in; “We are well...  

Cue out…Closure of schools.”//  

As of Friday, a voluntary joint task force comprised of parents, students and scientists formed to ensure quick identification and isolation of cases in schools reported that they had undertaken a pilot study in four schools in Kampala where they picked more than 200 positive cases. 

Dr Haruna Kigongo who heads the task force says when they got an alert from one of the schools, they found a sick bay full of children with symptoms consistent with COVID-19. In fact, he says the administration had turned another room into a sick bay to cater for the numbers.  At this school, they picked a total of 102 positive cases. 

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Cue out…we have found.”//

According to Ministry of Health guidelines, schools are supposed to isolate positive cases, enrol them on treatment and release them once they get a negative test.  To do this, they rely on school nurses. But, generally, these have so far not been specially trained to offer care for this highly infectious disease like it was for other health workers in the country that underwent training at the beginning of the pandemic.

Experts are now calling for a mandatory requirement for schools to have nurses that can easily identify and test COVID-19 if they are to quickly isolate cases. A group of laboratory technologists based at Makerere University have already offered to train school nurses in COVID-19 rapid diagnostic testing and mild case management at no cost.

Dr Samuel Majalija, the Deputy Principal at the College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Bio-security that is spearheading the training told URN in an interview that the 475 volunteers who have been trained and certified to conduct testing include a few nurses in Kampala schools.

//Cue in; “So far we have… 

Cue out…in the school.”//  

While many of the trained testing personnel have not yet been deployed anywhere or called to volunteer, Aceng said they are strengthening their school surveillance network and will continuously use the trained personnel as the need arises. 

//Cue in; "Surveillance in schools...

Cue out.... it spreads out."//

Currently,  schools are conducting testing at their own initiative and if they are to use the service of the trained volunteers, they have to cater for their logistics such as their transportation and sometimes buy test kits since the team is entirely depending on donations to operate.

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