JTA welcomes plan for 1st round vaccination of educatorsThursday, March 04, 2021
BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
PRESIDENT of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) Jasford Gabriel has welcomed the inclusion of educators in the first batch of persons targeted for the COVID-19 jab even as the entity is engaging in another round of canvassing to see how many of its membership will ultimately take the vaccine.
The Government on Tuesday indicated that Jamaica is to, in a matter of days, receive 50,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines courtesy of India, triggering phase one of the Government's roll-out. An additional 14,400 doses under the COVAX facility should reach the island on or before Thursday, March 11, part of an expected 124,800 doses, the remainder of which should arrive by May. All this will be in addition to another 1.8 million doses which should be supplied to Jamaica starting in April, under the African medical supply platform.
An estimated 248,000 people are targeted to receive jabs under phase one of the SARS COV 2 vaccine plan between March and June this year. Phase one will involve government officials, health workers, the elderly, the Jamaica Defence Force, the Jamaica Constabulary Force, teachers in both the private and public sphere and other individuals in high contact areas, while phase two will involve hotel workers, those in the transportation sector, the banking sector, the agricultural sector and the manufacturing sector, with the third phase involving the general population.
Speaking with the Jamaica Observer yesterday, the JTA president said while there has been general scepticism about the vaccine amongst people from different sectors of society, the decision to put teachers in the first cohort was prudent.
“I was out there lobbying for that from day one, [although it] might not have been very popular with a lot of our teachers. You just want to be sure that it is not mandatory but my position is that there should not be one teacher who desires to get the vaccine and is not able to get it,” Gabriel said yesterday.
“The first thing I think is to secure a space in the line and provide the option because when you look at it, a teacher can be engaged with in excess of 400 students easily on a daily basis; students come from various communities and travel on different modes of transportation. Students can pass on the virus easily and so our teachers are at the front line and are at high risk of contracting the virus and so I think it is very wise to ensure that our teachers are among the priority lists for those who are so inclined,” he added.
The JTA head said a small survey conducted sometime last November had shown that 30 per cent of its membership was warm to the idea of the vaccine. He said the association, which represents an estimated 21,000 educators across the education sector, is presently engaging in another study to gauge the current acceptance levels.
“A lot of the dynamics would have changed (since then) and this is now going to be a broader survey to include more of our members, therefore, the results from this will give us a better indication as to where we are right now,” he explained.
In the meantime, Gabriel said while he does not believe the vaccine by itself will be the cure-all it will help stay the hand of the pandemic.
“I feel it will have a positive impact in terms of not just the education sector but also the country, you look at what is happening in Israel, for example, they are almost gone back to normal.
“I can't say what the pickup rate is going to be here in Jamaica; there is still a lot of scepticism [as] persons are watching and waiting and so to get that percentage to get to herd immunity we may not get there in a short time, but even if we are able to do 50 per cent of the population then I think that will still make a significant dent in terms of the rate at which the virus is spread and once we can control the rate it means we can get back to more normal activities,” he noted.
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