COVID-19 Fiji: Kids’ vaccination not mandated, but encouraged – Health

Unvaccinated students will not be turned away from school, as measures will be put in place to ensure their overall safety including mandatory indoor masking, vaccination of teachers and ancillary staff as well as provision of well-ventilated rooms to hold classes.

These students, however via their parents, will be encouraged through the schooling year to get vaccinated to enhance overall safety in schools.

“We will not make it mandatory for children to be vaccinated, though it is clearly the best choice any young person can make for their health and the health of others,” Permanent Secretary for Health Dr James Fong said. “The pandemic has disrupted their education, their learning and development and the necessary life and social skills they gain by interacting with other children at school. The safest and most sustainable way to get our young people back into the classroom and keep them there is vaccines.”

Students within the 15 – 17 year old age group will receive the Moderna vaccine, while younger children from 12-14 years will be given the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

The reopening of schools is also dependent on the implementation of other safe COVID measures, that a special taskforce comprising education and health officials will deliberate on between now through 1 November with a view to have it in place in time for the start of school.

  • Measures include:
    • All adults working in the school system must be vaccinated. That includes teachers, management, and all staff –– including gardeners and security personnel. Anyone who comes into contact with children or who steps on school grounds must be vaccinated. There is no moral or medical justification for putting students at risk, and individuals who refuse the vaccine have no justification to be anywhere near children in school.
    • When schools do open, masks must be worn.
    • Non-classroom gatherings will not be permitted.
    • And schools have been directed to improve ventilation and air quality by keeping windows, doors and vents open where possible and employing mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts. We are also considering the use of portable air cleaners
    • Breaks will be staggered to prevent gatherings
    • Routine symptom and temperature screening of students and staff at school and testing of all who screen positive. Asymptomatic testing protocols for select groups will be implemented and absentee registry protocols maintained.

The taskforce will utilise the opening of year 12 and 13 classes to refine the strategies in place and tweak it, if need, to ensure it is relevant to local context.

The taskforce will also carry out an audit of schools to identify poorly ventilated spaces, and decide how best to use them in the event it cannot be renovated to allow for proper ventilation.

“So basically we end up with a red tape around all the poorly ventilated spaces that cannot be used. There are also other structural details that needs to be done to create windows. The other idea we were discussing the other day was the use of exhaust vents and flow space to ensure that the air within the classrooms us continuously moving. There are other things like indoor masking will be mandated to create a safe zone. Breaks ( recess and lunch) will also be staggered to make sure not too many people are gathering outside.”

Moderna vaccines rollout plan:

Through the Ministry of Education, the Moderna vaccine will be rolled out by school clusters within the four divisions:

Schools that are close by to each other will group together to form a cluster, where their student rolls of 15 and 17-year-olds can get vaccinated.

The dates, clusters and venues for these schools will be announced this weekend for the rollout to begin on Monday, 20 September.

Children will need to receive two doses of the Moderna vaccine which is administered at a dose interval of 28 days.

Parents and guardians will be asked to sign a consent form for children receiving this vaccine. They will also be able to register their child online before he or she receives the first dose of the Moderna vaccine.

“The online registration of children through the Vaccine Registry portal will be available from Saturday prior to the onsite vaccination campaign beginning this coming Monday.”

The roll-out for the Pfizer vaccine will be announced later but the approach will be similar to the Moderna vaccine roll-out for 15-17 year olds. 
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