Unvaccinated students allowed in face-to-face schooling only a ‘temporary measure’

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By Orville Williams

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Though some unvaccinated students are currently benefitting from face-to-face learning, they are being notified that that is only a temporary measure and they will be required to get vaccinated once more Pfizer doses arrive on the island.

In allowing the return of face-to-face learning for Grade Six students at the primary level and students in forms four and five at the secondary level, the government permitted the inclusion of those students who are yet to be vaccinated.

This was done considering the high level of vaccinations in the schools, where all teachers and other staff must be vaccinated in order to be allowed onto the compounds, and the majority of eligible students have already received the Pfizer vaccine.

Information Minister Melford Nicholas disclosed during yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing that the allowance will be discontinued once more vaccines are available to inoculate the rest of the student population.

“To parents and to students who have been allowed to go back to face-to-face learning for the period where we have permitted it in a mixed environment [both vaccinated and unvaccinated], there is still going to be the requirement for those unvaccinated students to be tested.

“Once the new batch of Pfizer vaccines have arrived on the island, they will be required to take the vaccine. So, the arrangement that we have with the schools at the moment is a temporary measure brought on by the compromises we said that we were obliged to [make], based on the representation that was made by the Ministry of Health officials and on behalf of the Parent Teacher Association and the teachers themselves,” Nicholas explained.

The Information Minister spoke on the recent amendment to the Education Act, which will make the requirement for students to be vaccinated against Covid-19 a legal obligation, saying that was done out of an abundance of caution.

“We are careful to point out that this is a question of safety, the government’s decisions are based primarily on and are driven by the safety of the population,” he said, also reiterating the government’s intention to consider the Pfizer vaccine for the five to 11 age group, once the manufacturer is given the necessary approval.

Meanwhile, based on the country’s current and forecasted epidemiological situation, the government will assess the possibility of reopening schools to all students, likely after the upcoming midterm break.

According to this week’s post-Cabinet report, “approximately 2000 students have not yet received the Pfizer vaccine, although more than 75 percent of the eligible students have received their first shot”.

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