Culture and Education

WHO and UNICEF: Teachers and Kids Must Roll Up Their Sleeves for COVID Shots to Keep Schools Up and Running!

As the school year begins for millions of children in Europe and Central Asia, UN health and child experts on Monday issued a series of COVID-19 risk reduction measures to ensure that in-person lessons can go ahead, despite rising infection rates.

In addition to calling for all school staff to be included in nationwide coronavirus vaccination plans, children aged 12 and above who suffer from underlying health conditions should also be immunized amid rising Delta variant numbers, said UN Children’s Fund UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO).


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Online limits


Highlighting the quick roll-out of online lessons in Serbia when the pandemic began last year, Belgrade high school teacher, Milena Maric, backed the UN-led call for greater protection measures.


“The students lacked continuity, socializing, collaborative work, the sharing of ideas in real time, communication without technology,” she said. “I know that the only way out of this situation is if we keep respecting measures to prevent the transmission of the virus and if we vaccinate all educators.”


Within all 53 countries that make up the WHO European Region, the UN agencies urged better classroom ventilation, smaller class sizes where possible, physical distancing and regular COVID-19 testing of children and staff.


Learning for mental health and protection


“The pandemic has caused the most catastrophic disruption to education in history. It is therefore vital that classroom-based learning continues uninterrupted across the European Region”, said Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “This is of paramount importance for children’s education, mental health and social skills, for schools to help equip our children to be happy and productive members of society.”


The implementation of such measures is of key importance to the mental health of youngsters and should “remain our primary objective, so we don’t rob them of the opportunities they so deserve”, Dr Kluge added.


Delta threat


Although a full COVID-19 vaccination course significantly reduces the risk of severe disease and death, the high incidence of the Delta variant in many countries – including a majority of those in the European Union – has made the risk of transmission within schools “much more likely”, both UN agencies warned.


To counter this – and another year of disrupted schooling – more people need to be offered the COVID-19 jab, they said.


“Vaccination is our best line of defence against the virus”, Dr. Kluge said. “And for the pandemic to end we must rapidly scale up vaccinations fairly in all countries, including supporting vaccine production and sharing of doses, to protect the most vulnerable, everywhere. We must also continue to follow the public health and social measures we know work, including testing, sequencing, tracing, isolation and quarantine.”


Pandemic ‘not over’


Echoing that message, UNICEF insisted that everyone could contribute to keeping schools open by signing up for the vaccine.


“The pandemic is not over…Children and youth cannot risk having another year of disrupted learning. Vaccination and protective measures together will help prevent a return to the darkest days of the pandemic when people had to endure lockdowns and children had to experience disruption of learning,” said Philippe Cori, Deputy Regional Director, UNICEF Europe and Central Asia.


Describing children as “the silent victims of the pandemic”, Mr. Cori noted that the most marginalized have been amongst the hardest-hit by COVID-19 disruption, as they were “already out-of-school, or in school, but not learning at the same level as their classmates”.


Schools are “so much more than a building”, the UNICEF senior official said. “It’s a place of learning, safety and play, at the heart of our communities. When they are closed, children, miss out on learning, being with their friends and may be exposed to violence in the home. The pandemic worsened an already unacceptable situation – we must ensure that schools reopen, and they stay open safely.”



The eight key recommendations to help keep schools open and safe, endorsed by WHO, UNICEF and UNESCO and developed by the WHO European Technical Advisory group for schooling during COVID-19:


  • Schools to be among the last places to close and first to re-open.

  • Put in place a testing strategy.

  • Ensure effective risk-mitigation measures.

  • Protect children’s mental and social well-being.

  • Protect the most vulnerable and marginalized children.

  • Improve the school environment.

  • Involve children & adolescents in decision-making.

  • Implement a vaccination strategy designed to keep children in school.

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    13 Comments

    1. “The students lacked continuity, socializing, collaborative work, the sharing of ideas in real time, communication without technology,” she said. “I know that the only way out of this situation is if we keep respecting measures to prevent the transmission of the virus and if we vaccinate all educators.”

    2. Should children under 12 with no underlying health conditions also be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination to enhance school safety?

      1. Children under 12 with no underlying health conditions may not be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination, but it’s essential to create a protective environment for them through measures like increased testing, mask-wearing, and social distancing in schools. Prioritizing vaccination for educators and high-risk children can significantly enhance overall school safety and continuity. Let’s all work together to prioritize both physical and mental well-being for all students and school staff.

    3. “The students lacked continuity, socializing, collaborative work, the sharing of ideas in real time, communication without technology,” he said. “I know that the only way out of this situation is if we keep respecting measures to prevent the transmission of the virus and if we vaccinate all educators.”

    4. As a teacher myself, I fully support the initiative for educators and students to get vaccinated. It’s crucial to ensure the safety of everyone in schools and maintain uninterrupted learning. Let’s all do our part in keeping our schools up and running smoothly.

    5. Do teachers really have a choice in getting vaccinated? What if some refuse?

      1. Teachers have a responsibility not only to their students but also to the entire school community. Getting vaccinated is a crucial step in ensuring the safety and well-being of everyone in the school environment. While individual choices matter, collective action is what will truly make a difference in keeping schools up and running smoothly.

    6. Should teachers and kids in Europe and Central Asia prioritize getting COVID shots for the safety of in-person lessons as recommended by WHO and UNICEF?

      1. Yes, it is crucial for teachers and kids in Europe and Central Asia to prioritize getting COVID shots for the safety of in-person lessons as recommended by WHO and UNICEF. It is only by following the recommended safety measures and ensuring vaccination for all educators that we can protect our students and maintain the continuity of education amidst the challenges posed by the pandemic.

    7. As a mother of two school-aged children, I fully support the initiative for teachers and kids to receive COVID shots to safeguard in-person learning. It’s crucial to prioritize the health and safety of our educators and students to ensure a successful academic year.

    8. As the new school year kicks off, it’s crucial for teachers and students to prioritize getting vaccinated against COVID-19 to ensure the smooth functioning of in-person classes. Every effort should be made to include school staff in national vaccination plans, along with children aged 12 and above who have underlying health conditions. This proactive approach is essential in light of the increasing Delta variant cases, as emphasized by UNICEF and WHO.

    9. As a parent, I fully support the vaccination of teachers and children to ensure the safety and continuity of in-person learning. It’s crucial that we prioritize the health and well-being of our educational communities in these challenging times.

    10. As the school year begins for millions of children in Europe and Central Asia, it is crucial that teachers and kids roll up their sleeves for COVID shots to keep schools up and running. The UN health and child experts have issued a series of COVID-19 risk reduction measures to ensure that in-person lessons can proceed despite rising infection rates. In addition to advocating for all school staff to be included in nationwide coronavirus vaccination plans, children aged 12 and above with underlying health conditions should also be immunized, as stated by UN Children’s Fund UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO).

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