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Covid-19 vaccination of children will not be forceful: Education minister

Minister Janet Kataha Museveni.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Minister of Education and Sports Janet Kataha Museveni has said that children will not be forced to get a Covid-19 jab.

The minister made the remarks on Wednesday during a press briefing at State House Nakasero.  She says that the vaccination of children will be by consent from parents.

Janet noted that she is aware that the current legal regime requires that one should get consent before being vaccinated. She said that the parents can as well take such decisions on behalf of their children.

Recently, the Ministry of Health revealed that they were arranging to vaccinate 16 million children between the ages of 5 and 12 years. According to their plans, the vaccination is expected to be carried out in the months of May and June during a mass vaccination exercise.

The children will be vaccinated using the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine which has been approved for use in children.

However, some parents have raised concerns with many of them asking the government not to impose vaccine mandates on children.

Dr. Joyce Moriku Kaducu, the State Minister for Primary Education, also added that the issue of vaccination of children is still under discussion between the two ministries to see how best it would be handled to ensure successfulness.

Prior to the reopening of schools, the government had encouraged people, especially those in priority groups like teachers and the elderly to get vaccinated. While persons in this group had to consent to get the jab, their choice, especially for teachers, was taken away when President Yoweri Museveni on the advice of scientists said only those who are vaccinated would be allowed on school premises.

However, it remains unclear under which conditions learners who are not vaccinated will be allowed in schools.

Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, the Minister of Health last week urged parents to vaccinate their children against the disease.

“Each parent needs to know that COVID-19 still exists and that vaccination offers protection against the disease. I and many officials at the ministry of health have vaccinated our children. My 12-year-old daughter is vaccinated”, she said.

The need for parental consent for vaccination might however become void if the amendments to the Public Health Act are passed by parliament.

Among others, the bill seeks to amend Section 38 to make it mandatory for all parents to vaccinate their children against a disease of public concern like COVID-19.

The need to vaccinate learners comes after schools failed to adhere to the school re-opening guidelines that were aimed at creating safe environments for schools amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the guidelines was that schools were supposed to carry out surveillance to enable health and education officials to easily identify possible clusters of disease. But few schools provided daily updates.

Now with the lifting of the ban on school visitation and games days, officials from the health and education ministries say it is important for children to get vaccinated.

Health officials however note that vaccination should not replace the wearing of facial masks as the vaccines cannot prevent infections.

The First Lady also said that the ministry will review the school standard operating procedures given the fact that there have been changes in the status of the disease in the entire country with registered cases dropping.

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