‘Jabs can’t be sole basis for full class resumption’

A secondary school principal has questioned the government’s plan to let schools resume full-day classes if at least 70 percent of teachers and pupils get vaccinated against Covid, on the day appointments open for children as young as 12 to book BioNTech jabs.

With schoolchildren allowed to get their first Covid-19 shots as early as Monday, officials have said that social distancing restrictions could be relaxed at schools with a higher inoculation rate.

But on an RTHK radio show on Friday, Tai Tak-ching, who chairs the Wan Chai District Headmasters’ Conference, noted that schools are currently holding only half-day classes on campus because of the infection risks of students eating lunch together.

“Schools aren’t isolated. The campuses may be safe and there may not be any problems even if people remove their masks and play ball games or do other activities. But once you have full-day classes, you have to handle the issue of students heading out for lunch,” Tai said.

“I think more consideration should be given to the outbreak situation in society, and the amount of vaccinated people in schools shouldn’t be the sole focus… Vaccination rate in schools can be an indicator, but it shouldn’t be the only one.”

The government is offering to lay on transport to take students from schools to vaccination centres, or – if more than 300 students and teachers in a school sign up for the shots – for medical staff to be sent there to give jabs on campus.

But Tai, who is the principal of the Sheng Kung Hui Tang Shiu Kin Secondary School, said it would be difficult for schools to reach the 300-person threshold to qualify for outreach vaccination teams.

He said he believes vaccination at schools would be beneficial, however, as students may feel less nervous in an environment they are familiar with.

Speaking on the same programme, a government adviser on the use of Covid-19 vaccines suggested that schools offer students up to three days’ holiday if they get a Covid jab.

Professor Lau Yu-lung from the University of Hong Kong said vaccinated pupils should avoid joining sporting activities for a week.

The paediatrics expert said there is a rare possibility that teenagers, especially boys, could develop a mild heart inflammation within four days of the second dose of vaccine.