By Shermain Bique-Charles
In what could be described as an expected reaction, parents in Antigua and Barbuda have voiced their objections to the government’s intention to vaccinate children between 12 and 17 years old.
Information Minister Melford Nicholas said these children are to be targeted for vaccination against Covid when the country receives 66,000 more doses within the next few weeks.
The shipment will include the US/German created Pfizer vaccine which has shown high efficacy and safety rates during trials in youngsters.
The aim is to create a safer environment in schools ahead of the return to the classroom in September.
Observer spoke to some parents who are clearly against the latest move.
A mother of a student who attends the Ottos Comprehensive School told our newsroom that her 14-year-old, who will be in 4th form when school reopens, will not be taking the vaccine.
The mother, who claimed that she is not against vaccination, said her decision is based on the fact that she is not comfortable with the Covid vaccine.
“I am not in agreement for her to be administered the vaccine. I am not comfortable. Yes, she would have received other vaccines to date but based on the information out there I am not comfortable at all,” she said.
Another parent, who is also a teacher, said that the vaccine has not yet been and proven to be safe and “we cannot afford to have children with side effects. Being a parent and a teacher, we cannot even help these children … I say children should not take the vaccine.”
A father also added his voice to those opposing the latest intention, saying, he is totally against it.
“We have to bear in mind they have not undergone the rigorous testing and development. CDC [Centers for Disease Control] would have said that it is an emergency vaccine, so why are we pushing this agenda?”
All but one parent interviewed supported the vaccination of children. For that mother, she sees no issue in allowing her daughter to take the jab, which she said is for her health benefit.
“If the vaccine is going to protect them from serious illness and death, then why not? At some point in their lives, we give them medications and we don’t worry about the side effects some of these labels have on them,” she said.
Government hopes to get children inoculated against the virus in the face of the delta variant, which has been linked to a higher rate of hospitalisation among young people, than other strains.
But the way the Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister Lionel Hurst put it, parents may have a hard time preventing their children from being vaccinated.
The idea, he said, is to add another item to students’ vaccination cards, a requirement for entering into the classroom.
“All children entering schools are compelled to show their vaccination card. What we are going to have is another of the item added to the vaccination card. So, instead of only measles, mumps and rubella, we may also have Covid-19 added,” he said.
Hurst insisted that the government is simply trying to prevent children, teachers, and their parents from becoming seriously sick from the deadly virus.