Rwanda on Monday announced it was starting vaccination of teens under 18 years.
This follows months of a mass vaccination campaign that targeted high risk groups and those engaged in businesses to ensure safe reopening of the economy.
Past campaigns have prioritised people above 18 years with a focus on frontline and healthcare workers, elderly people and those with underlying health conditions.
However, the Ministry of Health on Monday called on parents with children in the 12-17 age bracket, who are mostly learners in schools, to reach out to the nearest vaccination centres to sign consent forms. This will facilitate vaccination of children in the capital Kigali starting Tuesday and the rest of the country in the coming days.
According to the ministry, the vaccination will largely take place in schools, and health officials have liaised with respective schools to reach out to parents to sign consent forms so the exercise can be seamless.
“Young people under 18 years were not among the most vulnerable to the virus. However, as other categories get inoculated, there is a risk of young people catching the virus and spreading it because many are in day schools making routine movements,” Tharcisse Mpunga, State Minister for Primary Healthcare, said in a televised programme Monday.
According to Mr Mpunga, vaccination of children aged 12-17 years has proven successful elsewhere, allowing learning to go uninterrupted by the rise in infections and linked containment measures such as closures.
Learning institutions in Rwanda reopened in October for the new academic year after vaccination campaign had seen all the teachers, school staff and learners above 18 years inoculated.
Government has since prioritised mass vaccination after easing virus restrictions that allowed re-opening of key economic activities such as bars, massage parlours, saunas, swimming pools and recreational events under strict health conditions.
Proof of vaccination, a negative test or both apply as requirement at businesses, outdoor events and key economic activities that were allowed to either fully or partially reopen over the past four months.
The government last week launched vaccination in bus stations as part of the ongoing nationwide drive to expand vaccination centres in a bid to boost uptake of the jab.
The ongoing vaccination campaign has so far seen over 5.5 million people receive their first shot while 2.9 million people were fully vaccinated as at Sunday, November 21.
Health ministry data shows no new Covid-19-related death was recorded, while 10 new cases were detected out of more than 14,839 tests conducted.