Students under 16 are not mandated, but encouraged, to take the COVID-19 vaccine in Abu Dhabi. Illustrative photo. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Abu Dhabi: The COVID-19 vaccination rate of each Abu Dhabi school will be published on the website of Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek) following the implementation of the ‘Blue Schools’ initiative next term, Adek announced on Sunday.

The move will enable parents and students to easily monitor in which colour-coded tier their particular school is placed, with blue schools with the highest rate of vaccination among students and staff, followed by green, yellow and orange.

The education sector regulator also clarified the varying levels of privileges that will be afforded to each school based on its tier.

Privilege levels

Blue schools, in which more than 85 per cent of students who are physically attending are vaccinated, will have the highest level of privileges. Students will be allowed to remove their masks when outdoors. These schools will also be permitted to organise schools events, including outdoor field trips, assemblies and graduation ceremonies, and even inter-school activities with other Blue tier schools.

Parents with a Green Pass on Al Hosn app, and a negative PCR test with 48-hour validity, will also be allowed to attend school events.

In contrast, schools in the next tier - Green, which have a vaccination rate between 65 and 84 per cent - will only be allowed to organise outdoor field trips and school-specific events. Parents with a Green Pass and 48-hour PCR test will be allowed in smaller events.

Schools in the Yellow tier, which have vaccination rates between 50 and 64 per cent among students, will only be allowed to organise grade-level events.

Orange schools – where less than 50 per cent of students are vaccinated – will enjoy no additional privileges.

Adek undersecretary Amer Al Hammadi said: “Our policy is designed to enable an efficient and effective implementation of the Blue Schools Initiative, and provides full transparency to our education community as we strive to see schools return to normalcy at the earliest opportunity. The policy mandates schools to establish clear anti-discrimination and anti-stigmatisation guidelines in line with the values of the UAE. Schools are strictly prohibited from requiring the mandatory vaccination of students below the age of 16.”

Under-16s unvaccinated

At present, all staff and students aged 16 years and older who are physically attending private and charter schools in the emirate have to been vaccinated. This means that students under 16 years are the primarily unvaccinated group, as vaccination for this category remains voluntary according to government protocols.

The Blue Schools Initiative therefore recognises vaccination as the key path to recovery, and encourages immunisation of this remaining group in a bid to increase protection against COVID-19.

Under the initiative, as vaccination rates increase within a school community, a school will advance through the four colour-coded tiers and will enjoy additional privileges per tier. Students who have official exemptions from health authorities will not be included in the calculation of a school’s tier.

Anti-discrimination elements

To ensure that children are protected from discrimination, Adek has simultaneously prohibited the identification of unvaccinated students and mandated that vaccination status cannot be used during the admissions process.

Free COVID-19 vaccines are available for children at various vaccination centres across Abu Dhabi. Children aged 12 years or more can get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, whereas the Sinopharm jabs are available for children aged three years or more.