TEENS HAPPY FOR JAB
Students eager to return to classrooms and sports turn up in droves for Pfizer vaccineTuesday, August 24, 2021
BY KASEY WILLIAMS
MANDEVILLE, Manchester — A desire to return to face-to-face classes, engage in competitive sports, and get a fighting chance against COVID-19 were among the factors that drove scores of teenagers, accompanied by their parents, to the vaccination centre at Mandeville Regional Hospital yesterday.
“I'm here today to take the vaccine so that I can go to school knowing that if I get COVID, I'll be able to recover fast,” Belair High School footballer 16-year-old Okeen Kelley told the Jamaica Observer.
“We have been on lockdown [under restrictions] for like a long time now, and it's really been hard on everybody on the football team, because we haven't been playing any sports or going to school,” he added.
The youngster and his colleagues expressed relief after receiving the Pfizer vaccine as the Government continued a vaccination blitz that started last Saturday for students 12 years and older.
Education Minister Favyal Williams last Thursday told the country that children 12 and over must be vaccinated in order to return to face-to-face classes when schools reopen. Those who are unvaccinated will have to join classes online until they receive the jab.
Williams made the announcement at a news conference hours after Jamaica received a donation from the United States Government of 204,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, the majority of which is being administered to students.
Word from the Ministry of Health and Wellness yesterday was that just over 21,000 of the targeted 25,000 students received a first dose of the vaccine over the weekend.
Yesterday, Kelley complained that virtual learning had been difficult; therefore, he is looking forward to being among those who return to face-to-face classes and to the football field to represent his school.
“I know for a lot of students they can say the same about this. The online classes are very hard for most of them. I'm here today to take the vaccine to ensure that I'm one of the people to ensure that football and classes resume,” he said.
His schoolmate, 17-year-old Timothy Hastings, who is also a member of Belair High's football team, agreed.
“It feels good to take the vaccine. We are glad to take it to play daCosta Cup, because we have been out of football [competition] for about two years now, and we are glad to get back out on the field,” said Hastings.
The daCosta Cup is the competition that determines football supremacy among high schools in rural Jamaica.
Another teen, who asked not to be named, told the Observer he doesn't want to become a casualty of the novel coronavirus.
“I decided to take the vaccine about three months ago when I asked my mother if we could get the vaccine. First of all, I don't want to die from COVID, and I just want to live longer,” said the 14-year-old.
Seventeen-year-old Joel Wilmot said, “It is the right thing to do to help protect me from the virus.”
Meanwhile, Councillor Omar Miller (Jamaica Labour Party, Craighead Division), who had accompanied his 14-year-old son to the vaccination centre, encouraged Jamaicans to get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.
“I am here for my eldest son to be vaccinated for school. It is important that we follow the protocols and understand [why we are] having them vaccinated… I would recommend that people do their own research, make their own assessment and realise that it is important for us as a country to take the vaccine. Without it, moving forward is going to be very challenging for the economy and for us as a people,” he said.
Custos of Manchester Garfield Green, who had accompanied his twin children — Jade and Sean — to the vaccination centre on Sunday, also appealed to Jamaicans to get vaccinated.
“I would like to encourage others to join in the drive to protect ourselves and others. Our efforts in this regard will help us return to normality sooner, rather than later, especially with face-to-face classes,” said Green.
A 67-year-old woman, who asked not to be named, and who had accompanied her 15-year-old grandson to be vaccinated, said she would have been at risk if he hadn't taken the vaccine.
“Although I took mine already, if my grandson doesn't take it, I am still at risk with him going back to school. I took the AstraZeneca and nothing is wrong with me, so I would like him to take the vaccine so that he can go back to school, because they have been out of school for too long,” she said.
Yesterday, the health and wellness ministry reported that the island recorded 879 positive novel coronavirus cases from 2,710 samples in the 24 hours leading up to Sunday. That pushed the total number of cases reported since the emergence of the virus here last year March to 62,712. Of that number 47,787 have recovered and 1,402 have died.