More than 60 per cent of teachers are now indicating a willingness to take the COVID-19 vaccine, which will be made available to educators this month.
Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) President Jasford Gabriel noted that when the union conducted its survey in early January only approximately 32 per cent — or just under a third of 22,000 educators — indicated that they would take the vaccine, but now the numbers have doubled, as of three weeks ago.
The JTA had issued a public appeal for teachers to be included among the priority population which would be offered the vaccine in the initial phase.
“I think as time progresses there has been more buy-in from the teachers, as they observe and do their own research and see the reality of what is happening… and especially for the age group that they will begin with, and those with co-morbidities, I think that percentage [of those who are willing to take the vaccine] will even be higher than the general percentage across the teaching profession,” he told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
In the meantime, the JTA president said the sector is still cautiously optimistic that with adherence to the safety protocols and vaccine intervention, face-to-face teaching and learning could resume in the near future.
“We can only be hopeful, as far as that is concerned. I believe if we are more disciplined as a population, for one, and if we are able to continue with the vaccination at the rate that is desirable, then certainly we look forward to herd immunity and even before that we should be able to bring down the positivity rate, which is something that we have to keep a close eye on,” he said, stressing that this would greatly improve the prospects for physical reopening of schools.
So far, Jamaica has received a total of 64,400 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines, from India and through the COVAX (COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access) facility, combined. The vaccine market remains tight as manufacturers like India, have either suspended shipments or are now focusing on their own populations.
Just prior to the Easter holidays, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton advised the country that there could be delays in the schedule for the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to the island over the next month-and-a-half.
He insisted, however, that there are sufficient supplies on hand for now to continue with the national vaccination programme, with enough doses to last up to another three weeks. A shipment of another 26,000 doses of the vaccine is expected to arrive this week via the COVAX arrangement.