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Gonsalves defends vaccination policy for teachers


Gonsalves defends vaccination policy for teachers
Prime Minister of St Vincent Dr Ralph Gonsalves. (FILE)

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Kingstown – Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said that his administration owes it to the children of St Vincent and the Grenadines to ensure that they attend classes in a safe environment as he defended the policy to have teachers vaccinated by last Friday.

Gonsalves, speaking on a local radio programme here on Sunday, said that an estimated 15 per cent of primary and secondary school teachers and ten per cent of lecturers at the Community College were still unvaccinated against the coronavirus (COVID-19) as of last Friday, the deadline given by the authorities for teachers to legally acquire the vaccine or be deemed to have abandoned their jobs.

St Vincent and the Grenadines has registered 76 deaths and 5 623 infections from the virus since the first case was registered in March last year.

Gonsalves said some of the unvaccinated teachers are still awaiting word on their application to be exempted from the vaccination on medical or religious grounds.

“The numbers that I got by midday on Friday, were 90 something per cent of the persons at the following areas: at the prisons, the police, the customs, immigration, nurses, doctors, both in the hospital services and the community health services, the ports, the airports, and 85 per cent in relation to the teachers, both in primary and secondary, and a number around 90 per cent at the community college.

“I think one is in the late 80s and the rest are in the 90s. In fact, as far as the nursing school is concerned, the lecturers are 100 per cent vaccinated.”

Gonsalves said that as a consequence of “the slower movement among the teachers”, the Ministry of Education, “given the extent of the importance of educating our children and to keeping them safe in school and also for their health” had to make sure there was an adequate supply of teachers for those who were unvaccinated as of November 19, the date on which the mandatory vaccination policy came into effect.

He said that the ministry could not wait until the expiration of “the so-called ten-day grace period” that is written into the law mandating COVID-19 vaccination for a wide cross-section of state employees that have been deemed “frontline” workers.

Gonsalves said that the government wanted to make sure that it was prepared and, therefore, on November 24, there was an advertisement for people who wanted to teach.

He said he was told that up to last Saturday morning, 91 teachers have been hired on short-term contracts to teach largely in the primary schools, though some will teach at secondary schools.

“Now, they probably need a number close to that number again not to be particularly short and I think they are still interviewing and contacting persons, including retired teachers.”

Gonsalves said that the government has a “high responsibility” to make sure that the students are in a safe environment, that persons who are teaching them are vaccinated, and that other people who are around, including ancillary workers, such as cooks and janitors, are vaccinated.

“And also high on the totem pole that the students be taught. There is no pulling away from those obligations.” (CMC)