Coronavirus: UAE schools prepare to vaccinate pupils aged 12 to 15

Principals believe move will help parents feel secure about sending children to school

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Schools in the UAE are planning for the imminent launch of a vaccination campaign for pupils aged between 12 and 15.

It follows last week's approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children of these ages in the UAE on an emergency basis.

Principals believe the move will reassure parents about sending their children to school.

In March and April, hundreds of pupils aged 16 and above were given the Covid-19 shot here.

We are in advanced talks with health authorities and education regulators to help in the rollout of the vaccine for pupils in our schools over the coming days.

Now efforts are turning to inoculating the lower age range in co-operation with health authorities and regulators, and some schools want to set up vaccination centres on site.

"More than 42,000 pupils are now eligible for inoculation across the Gems Education network, joining the 14,700 Gems teachers and school support staff already vaccinated," said Elmarie Venter, chief operations officer at the private company.

"We are in advanced talks with health authorities and education regulators to help in the roll-out of the vaccine for pupils in our schools over the coming days.

"As we did for pupils aged 16 and above, we intend to set up vaccination centres within a selection of our schools to make it as easy as possible for Gems pupils to receive the vaccine."

While some schools may set up their own centres, others might book appointments for children at government sites.

The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention said on Thursday that approval was given after successful clinical trials and assessments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Aldar Education, Abu Dhabi’s largest school group, is trying to obtain Covid-19 vaccines for its pupils.

"We are in discussion with government agencies and health partners to see how Aldar Education can support this campaign," said Dave Taylor, group director of operations.

About 250 pupils aged 16 and above at Taaleem schools have been immunised.

Gavin Hyatt, head of operations at Taaleem, said it was exploring opportunities to drive the campaign.

Mr Hyatt said that once these agreements were in place, the schools would encourage pupils to take part.

“We have already seen significant positive changes in the schools since the introduction of staff vaccinations and for our Grade 12 pupils,” he said.

Rashmi Nandkeolyar, principal of Delhi Private School Dubai, said it was planning an inoculation initiative.

“Vaccinations will help make schools safer," Ms Nandkeolyar said.

The school encouraged pupils aged 16 and above to take an injection and many have been vaccinated.

More than 97 per cent of the 400 staff members at the school have been vaccinated.

Data on whether the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can be given to children aged between 5 and 11 is expected as early as this summer.

If the trials go well, young children could be vaccinated by the end of the year, BioNTech co-founder Dr Ozlem Tureci said.

Coronavirus case numbers have been dropping sharply in the UAE over the past few weeks.

The UAE on Monday reported its lowest daily number of cases this year, with 1,229 new infections.

Authorities brought in one of the world's fastest vaccination drives and used mass testing to tackle the pandemic.