Published: 22nd September 2021
Reopening of schools in Kerala to present health challenges, says Indian Medical Association state secretary
Govt, parents must be prepared to tackle weakened immunity of students due to lack of exposure to the outside world, say experts
As schools are set to reopen on November 1, the state will have to address a slew of challenges to protect the health of the student community, although they are relatively in a better position when compared to adults. First, the lack of exposure to the outside environment, gatherings and travel for the last one-and-a-half years because of COVID restrictions is expected to have reduced their immunity.
Indian Medical Association (IMA) state secretary Dr P Gopikumar said, “It is true that the lack of contact with viral pathogens and various germs — though all germs are not bad — will result in weakening the immune system. But we don’t think it would be a big issue in Kerala as the students here have been playing in their surroundings and mixing with others, especially with their peer groups in a limited way, despite the lockdown restrictions.
“A more serious issue will be the psychological pressure the students will have to face while going to classes after such a long gap. The state administration has to address this separately,” he said.
Indian Academy of Paediatrics former state president M Narayanan said, “The students used to get infections like viral fever or cold when they rejoin classes after the two-month summer vacation in every academic year. The parents and health authorities should prepare themselves to face such a situation, especially in November and December, as the colder weather used to aggravate infectious diseases in children.
“Further, the students with comorbidities will have to be given special care unless they are vaccinated. Normally, 99.9 per cent of students will be fit to face the COVID threat when schools reopen. But in the case of students with comorbidities, the health department and parents should take extra measures to protect their health.” Further, a lot of children in the state might have missed their vaccine shots against diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough because of the restrictions and focus on COVID. Since hardly 40 days are left for the reopening of schools, the parents should ensure that their children have taken the routine vaccines they have missed, he added.
Before reopening the schools, the state government must ensure that all family members of students are vaccinated against COVID. Only students from the vaccinated families shall be allowed to attend classes as it is vital for protecting their health, said Gopikumar.
Kerala Government Medical Officers’ Association general secretary T N Suresh said, “As per the information we received, the state government is going ahead with the reopening of schools following the seroprevalence study among children which found that a good number of children have developed antibodies against the virus. In such a scenario, there is nothing much to worry about, but measures like sanitising and washing of hands along with wearing of masks and maintaining safe distance should be enforced strictly and there must not be any laxity in these,” he said.