Story and photos by Theresa Goodwin
Parents of unvaccinated children are not taking yesterday’s enforcement of a government-imposed mandate barring their children from entering schools’ premises too kindly.
“My child has been abandoned, that’s how I feel. I do not want my child to be vaccinated and as a result of that he is being punished. Now that he is at home, will I have to force him to take it in order for him to continue with his schooling?” one parent questioned.
Another whose child is in the fourth form at a government secondary school said she is against mandatory vaccination for anyone, adults or children.
“I am very disappointed that the government would want to restrict my child from getting an education because I am not giving my consent. The Pfizer vaccine is approved for emergency use only; why are you forcing my son to take something that is approved only for emergency use?
“A few years ago, the Antiguan government signed a UNICEF policy indicating that no child should be left behind. Why are you leaving my son behind for a decision he cannot make on his own?” the woman added.
In a statement on Wednesday, the government announced that secondary school students who had not received a Covid-19 shot by November 11 would not be allowed to enter school compounds.
This followed a notification issued to parents about a week earlier.
As the mandate took effect yesterday, a number of students were indeed barred from classes, some for not complying with the mandate and others who seemingly forgot to bring along their vaccination cards.
Aside from that, for the most part, the principals of the three most populous secondary schools around St John’s reported that the process to re-integrate students into the physical classroom had been seamless.
Principal of Ottos Comprehensive School, Foster Roberts, said there was some bottleneck seen in the earlier hours of the day as an influx of students arrived at the same time.
He also revealed that school authorities were forced to send home around 22 students for non-compliance.
Of the school’s 700 students, almost 300 or more of those eligible are fully vaccinated, Roberts said. The headmaster also explained that that number is likely to increase as the school is still receiving consent forms from parents.
A high percentage of the 500-plus students enrolled at the Antigua Girls’ High School are fully inoculated, according to the head of that institution, Theoline Croft.
When Observer visited the school on Thursday, Croft was still sorting through copies of vaccination cards that had been submitted by the students to be placed on their records.
Some children, who had been granted exemptions for medical or religious reasons, are also required to provide documentation verifying the approval of their request.
Over at the Antigua Grammar School things were also relatively quiet and classes were in session.
The principal of that institution, Samuel Roberts, said parents of unjabbed children seemingly opted to keep them at home in compliance with the new mandate, while those who have been inoculated were processed and allowed to proceed to class.
Most of the schools in Antigua and Barbuda are currently operating on a rotation system in line with Covid-19 protocols.