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Children at least risk of COVID infection, open up primary schools first, experts urge in letter to Centre, CMs

ANI | Updated: Aug 28, 2021 18:25 IST

New Delhi [India], August 28 (ANI): Highlighting the "urgent" need to bring back children to schools and citing that "younger children are least at risk" of being infected by COVID-19, a group of over 55 doctors, academicians, and medical professionals have written to the chief ministers and Lieutenant Governors of states and union territories to permit schools to resume classes first for primary students and later on for those in higher standards.
In the letter that was also addressed to Prime Minister's Office, Union Minister of Education Dharmendra Pradhan, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare Mansukh L Mandaviya, and Chairperson of National Disaster Management Authority, the signatories said "there is global evidence to support school opening and governments should urgently consider opening schools and resuming in-person classes."
Recognizing the scale of costs of shut down of schools, the signatories noted that the issue of school re-opening is played up as a "life vs education" issue.
However, they said, "this is flawed because not only are children at low risk of severe or fatal COVID-19, but the loss of education causes extreme long-term harm, including poverty and malnutrition."
"COVID-19 vaccines for children are not a prerequisite for reopening schools. The purpose of vaccination is to prevent severe illness and death, however, children are at relatively low risk of severe or fatal COVID-19. Data from the USA indicates those under age 25 are at one-tenth the mortality risk from COVID-19, compared to traffic accidents," the letter said.
It further noted that 60-80 per cent of Indian children have had a natural infection as per serosurveys.
"The benefit of vaccination for children is far lower than that for adults. Even after trials, the rare and long-term effects of vaccines will be unknown. The UK decided not to vaccinate children except where they are highly vulnerable. Vaccination of children is not a prerequisite to open schools. Nowhere in the world are children younger than 12 being vaccinated but schools are open," it stated further.
Taking note of the Delta variant scare, the letter said, "the Delta variant was first reported in India, and over two-thirds of the Indian population has already been exposed to the virus, including a majority of children in the 6-17 age group."
It further said that multiple studies have shown that schools do not contribute significantly to COVID-19 spread. "Adults and children are free to go anywhere except schools; aggressive testing in non-school settings may also reveal positive results, similar to schools," it stated.
Noting that opening schools will be a very dynamic process, the letter urged the governments to "open schools now with proper planning and if there is a steep rise in cases, shutting them again can be considered as a last resort. India is among only four to five countries across the world where schools have been closed for such a long time (1.5 years)."
" There is an urgent need to bring children back to school. Since younger children are least at risk, we urge you to permit primary schools to open first, in line with ICMR recommendations, and then higher classes. We look forward to leaders across political parties coming together for the sake of our children," it added.
The signatories of the letter include various doctors and academicians from various educational institutions in the country, and also 'The National Coalition on the Education Emergency', a coalition of individuals and organizations to build awareness of the costs of school closure, to advocate for the safe reopening of schools. (ANI)