Argentina launches vax campaign to get kids back to in-person classes

Buenos Aires, Jan 24 (EFE).- Argentina on Monday launched a National Vaccination Campaign against Covid-19 to ensure “full and safe in-person presence in schools,” with an eye toward the start of the new school year in a few weeks and after two years during which the pandemic left thousands of children without in-person learning for months and spurred many to actually drop out of school.

“The priority is for this year for there to be school and in-person (learning) for all Argentinian children. Let them all return to school,” said Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez at the ceremony to inaugurate the vaccination campaign at a stadium in the town of Moron, in Buenos Aires province.

“And to do it, we need teachers and we have to give the teachers safe scenarios to be able to work and that security is only provided by vaccination,” the president added.

The campaign to get vaccination on the national calendar and increase immunization against the coronavirus is aimed at primary and secondary school students, their families, teachers and non-teacher staff with the objective of guaranteeing in-person learning during the school year.

Argentina’s school year, which will last for 190 days, will begin on March 2 in 22 of the country’s 24 jurisdictions, Education Minister Jaime Perczyk said, meaning that the country has five weeks to get kids and teens vaccinated.

Argentina last August began vaccinating teens against Covid-19 and in October health authorities began vaccinating children. According to the latest figures from the Health Ministry, 69.5 percent of children between 3 and 11 have gotten at least their first dose and 46.3 percent have completed the two-dose vaccine regimen, while 85.7 percent of teens between 12 and 17 have gotten at least one dose and 67.5 percent have gotten both doses.

Meanwhile, 90 percent of the country’s teachers have been fully vaccinated.

As part of the confinement measures that Argentina implemented to combat the pandemic in 2020 and part of 2021, the Fernandez administration shut down in-person classes and inaugurated online learning, a move that administration officials admitted delinked about one million children from school, although now about half that number have reconnected.

“We’ve recovered a large number of kids but we’re missing others,” Perczyk said.

Fernandez said that when Perczyk took over at the Education Ministry last September, he tasked him with “going to look for” the kids who had left school and as part of that task the government launched the Beca Progresar program for those who had left high school for which more than 400,000 students signed up, although the president has said he hopes to sign up one million kids.

“So that we can get back to full in-person learning, it’s very necessary for us all to be vaccinated,” Fernandez emphasized, noting that about 80 percent of the people currently hospitalized for Covid-19 have either not been vaccinated at all or are not fully vaccinated, going on to ask teachers and students to get vaccinated soon as part of their “individual responsibility and solidarity.”

“Argentina has an advantage over other societies and that is that it has the culture of vaccination deeply rooted in its culture,” Fernandez said.

EFE vd/rgm/jrh/bp

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