Targeted strategies needed to get young people vaccinatedFriday, August 20, 2021
The Ministry of Education reported that they will require students 12 years and older to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before being allowed to attend face-to-face classes in September 2021. This report has emerged only two weeks prior to the start of the new school year and has certainly sparked grave concern for the nation's youth.
Undoubtedly, this is certainly a good move for the protection of our young people and the stability of their ongoing education, however, being the intersectional development practitioner that I am, I recognise the possible gaps this approach might cause.
Though I see the benefits, we have to ask ourselves how this decision will affect young people in rural areas or lower-income communities where we have failed to penetrate with sufficient vaccine information or even, arguably, vaccines.
According to Reuters' COVID-19 tracker, Jamaica has administered at least 391,076 doses of COVID-19 vaccines so far. Assuming every person needs two doses, that's enough to have vaccinated about 6.6 per cent of the population.
This shows that Jamaica's population, due to a variety of reasons, including international vaccine inequity, as well as low vaccine take-up by the population, is significantly under-vaccinated.
Vaccine hesitancy, which seems to be spreading, confirms my fear that parents who are unwilling or apprehensive to take the vaccine themselves will not allow their children to be vaccinated, despite it being a barrier to face-to-face education.
Interestingly, face-to-face education is the best modality for Jamaica currently.
Since the emergence of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Jamaica has become acutely aware of the digital divide that affects children and young people from underserved communities who are unable to access their education online. I fear that this might be a prolonged issue if enough vaccines do not reach lower-income communities or there is not a high take-up of the vaccines that are available.
Consequently, our most vulnerable needs to be targeted with vaccine intervention strategies that promote trust, high take-up, and in-person engagement — go to them in their communities.
Finally, no one should be left behind and certainly, no one should have barriers preventing them from accessing education. This means that we should all get vaccinated so that the young people within our society can have a fair chance of accessing education.
Realistically, this isn't an easy task for any Government in the current climate, but let's consider how best to engage young people and parents, especially those who live in rural or lower-income communities.
These kids have suffered for far too long and this pandemic has presented gaps in their education that I am not sure Jamaica can mitigate. I am worried.