School dropouts are nowhere in Government’s data of vaccinating children in 15-17 of age group.
Vaccination against Covid-19 for 15-17 years old started in January this year. Vaccination centers and camps are only designated to school-going children that are restricting the school dropouts to get vaccinated. According to Government’s data till date, 8 crore children have been vaccinated with first dose in Karnataka. The Bruhat Bengaluru MahanagaraPalike (BBMP) has identified 4,41,000 beneficiaries in different schools and PU colleges of Bengaluru to be vaccinated. But the1.59 lakh school dropouts who left schools during the pandemic are missing from this data.
Various businesses and daily wage jobs came to a standstill during the lockdown which resulted in parents taking out their children from schools. Senior Health Officer Dr. V.C Murthy of BBMP, who works closely for vaccinating children in Bangalore, said, “This has been discussed in the meeting in January. Now we are taking this very seriously we have asked the school principles to give us the dropout children list. We have vaccinated 5165 children with first dose and 4538 with second dose; this includes only children who go to school.”
The government is conducting vaccination camps only in schools which results in lesser number of vaccinations among school dropouts. Teachers and principals of schools conducting vaccination camps in their campus have no idea about vaccination for school dropouts. Gita T., principal of a government high school of K Gollahalli said, “The vaccination camps held here are only done for school students – no outsiders were allowed. All our school children are vaccinated. I don’t know anything about the school dropouts’ vaccination.”
The NGOs are working to identify these children from different slums and construction sites. They are going home-to-home to vaccinate children who are not going to schools because of monetary distress. Rajendra Prabhakar executive director of Maarga NGO said, “PHC told us that once they are done with schools, they will get back to us for children out of school. That’s what they promised but later on we found that the government doesn’t have the stocks. So, the question of vaccinating children who are out of school remains an issue. The government has not given its priority to vaccinate the children as it said it will. In many places government started claiming whatever the NGO’s are doing as their own work. I don’t think we should limit the vaccination thing only to the students going to schools. It has to be accessible to all children.” No significant measures have been taken by the government to identify these school dropout children. However, the Government is planning to start door-to-door vaccination for children between 15 and17 years of age.