Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, Santia Bradshaw, has reported “a smooth start” to the commencement of the vaccination of children aged 12 to 18 against COVID-19.
Her comment came as scores of students, accompanied by their parents, arrived at the vaccination centres across the island to receive their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, which is the only one approved for use within that demographic.
Minister Bradshaw, accompanied by Chief Education Officer, Dr. Ramona Archer-Bradshaw, and Co-coordinator of the National Vaccination Programme for COVID-19, Major David Clarke, visited the vaccination centre set up at the UWI Open Campus, located at The Pine, St. Michael, and witnessed the administering of the first dose to 14-year-old Jabarry Watt of the Ann Hill School.
“Things are going well and I hope that over the course of the coming days, as we continue to roll out the vaccination centres across the island, the parents who may be a little bit uncertain will start to move in the direction of actually realising that there is very little or no harm in relation to the side effects from this particular vaccine,” she stated.
There are 21,000 children across the school system who are eligible to be inoculated, and Minister Bradshaw expressed optimism about the possibility of most, if not all, of them being vaccinated.
“This gives us our best chance of protection in relation to not only our adult population but also ensuring that our children are well vaccinated, and that hopefully we can move towards getting to a point where we can do our face-to-face classes again in the foreseeable future,” she said.
The Education Minister also spoke to the arrangements for the new academic year, which is scheduled to begin on September 20. She said while the “ideal situation” was to have students return to the physical classroom, the Ministry was aware that adjustments may have to be made along the way and was “putting all contingencies in place”.
“We’re familiar with the online environment. If we have to work online, we’re prepared for online. If we have to do the blended approach where some students are able to come to school, because we understand the importance of doing the face-to-face [classes] with the students, but in this environment we may be limited to be able to get everyone into the classroom environment.”
However, she made it clear that the resumption of face-to-face classes will depend on “our ability to manage the COVID-19 cases”, and reiterated the appeal for the general population to get vaccinated against the viral illness.
Ms. Bradshaw also assured that the Ministry was prepared to deal with any cases which may arise among the school population.