Will teachers who opt out of the jab return to face-to-face?Thursday, May 06, 2021
I listened to Andrew Holness, prime minister, provide an update on COVID-19 protocols in Parliament on Tuesday, May 4, 2021. I welcomed the announcement that students sitting exams will be allowed to be back in face-to-face classes with their teachers. This move was late, as there is yet to be any scientific analysis to support the closing of schools. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has maintained that the survival rate for children who contract the novel coronavirus is very high, 99.997 per cent ( https://www.winknews.com/2020/09/23/cdc-shows-covid-19-has-high-survival-rate-doctor-still-wants-to-see-precautions-taken). Why would we close schools when the survival rate amongst students is so high? We are now seeing the negative impact of this decision.
There is a rise in crime against school-age children and there is also an increasing learning gaps right across Jamaica as teachers battle with poor online attendance and participation.
I found one aspect of the prime minister's speech very intriguing. He indicated that vaccinated teachers would be the ones providing the face-to-face instruction to the students. He needs to be more straightforward in his pronouncement. Is he saying that teachers who decide not to be vaccinated will not be allowed to conduct face-to-face instruction?
If this is the intention then the prime minister would be going against the Ministry of Labour's view. In a report carried by the Jamaica Observer on April 15, 2021, a private sector company had given its employees an ultimatum to be vaccinated. In response to this, the state minister at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security Zavia Mayne said, “So far, as I am aware, there is no law in Jamaica, and certainly not from this Government, giving employers the right to compel an employee to take the vaccine as a means of securing employment ( https://www.jamaicaobserver.com/front-page/jab-or-no-job-employers-warned-that-they-could-be-in-trouble-if-they-fire-employees-who-refuse-to-take-covid-19-vaccine_219220).”
The Government needs to quickly clarify if the comments from the Ministry of Labour covers the private as well as public sector employees.
Jamaican teachers read widely, and they would know the stories surrounding the AstraZeneca vaccine. In some countries in Europe the use of AstraZeneca has been restricted to persons over the age of 55 ( https://www.iol.co.za/news/world/all-the-countries-that-restricted-or-suspended-use-of-astrazeneca-and-j-and-j-covid-19-vaccines-15e22cb0-3fef-4dab-9176-ebb7862fa6bb).
This is common knowledge and any hesitancy among the teachers to being vaccinated is understandable. This issue requires dialogue rather than heavy-handedness.
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