Vaccination rates among school children in Abu Dhabi have risen dramatically since the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek) announced the Blue Schools initiative.
The programme, which was announced in October, permits private and charter schools with higher vaccination levels to gradually ease coronavirus restrictions.
Vaccination rates have risen among all school age groups, with 93 per cent of students over 16, 68 per cent of 12 to 15-year-olds, and 21 per cent of under-12s now vaccinated against Covid-19.
Overall, 37 per cent of pupils in the Abu Dhabi’s private and charter schools have had both doses.
As a consequence Adek has brought forward the Blue Schools programme by two months, and 34 schools have been allowed to relax physical distancing and mask-wearing protocols.
Other permitted privileges include reintroducing field trips, on-campus events, and extra-curricular activities such as team and contact sports, as well as inter and intra-school sports competitions.
Amer Al Hammadi, Adek undersecretary, celebrated the rapid progress.
“Our education community has demonstrated remarkable commitment to national vaccination aspirations, so it is only prudent to reward schools by expediting a return to normalcy and encouraging further vaccination uptake through the early activation of the Blue Schools Initiative.”
The colour-coded tier system is based on the percentage of the school population immunised.
As vaccination rates increase within a school community, a school will advance through four colour-coded tiers: Orange (less than 50 per cent of school population vaccinated), Yellow (50-64 per cent), Green (65-84 per cent), and Blue (85 per cent and above), and will enjoy additional privileges per tier.
Vaccination rates for individual schools are published every two weeks on Adek's website.
Vaccination of students under 16 is voluntary, according to government protocols, and Adek insisted children should not be stigmatised for not being inoculated.
Instead, the Blue Schools scheme aims to encourage all age groups to be immunised in order to accelerate a return to normality and minimise the effect of possible infections.
Children aged between 12 and 15 have been allowed the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine since May this year, and in August the UAE's Ministry of Health and Prevention approved the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine for children between 3 and 17.
This week, the UAE approved the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for children aged between 5 and 11 on an emergency basis.
Authorities said clinical studies showed the vaccine provided a strong and safe immune response.
Benefits for Blue Schools
Once a school reaches blue status, the following directives apply:
* Pupils can remove masks outdoors
* Physical distancing measures for pupils can be removed
* Allow all field trips (also for Green Schools)
* Bus capacity back to 100 per cent (also for Green Schools)
* Duration of school closure for Covid-19 outbreak capped at seven days (also for Green Schools)
* Class/bubble sizes set at 25 (kindergarten to foundation stage) and 30 (Grade 1/Year 2 and above)
* Events such as school assemblies, graduation ceremonies are permitted
* Inter-school activities, such as sports competitions, allowed with other Blue Schools (such activities contained to the school approved at Green level)