The Ministry of Education has prioritised teachers in the next target group for COVID-19 vaccines, however, some of the island’s educators might skip that session.

Though it is unclear the number of teachers in the primary and secondary school system seeking a pass on this effort to vaccinate workers in key sectors against COVID-19, a senior official of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) told COVID Weekly, the union is not prepared to come down on one side or the other in this matter.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness has vaccinated some 51 000 people with the first dose of the two-dose Oxford Astra-Zeneca vaccine, gifted to the island by the Government of India.

And in a recent interview, Rudy Lovell, second vice-president of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT), said some teachers have already taken the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Feedback is that there are some teachers who are opposed to taking the vaccine, at this time.

“I have also received reports from some persons who have severe allergies who have been advised by their doctors not to take it at this time. The Union’s advice is to encourage teachers to do what is best for them and their families and to weigh the pros and cons of what they do. It is an individual choice,” Lovell explained.

The educator and union representative said his colleagues in the profession were fearful of becoming infected with COVID-19, especially those with comorbidities such as non-communicable diseases.

Just days ago, the BUT president Pedro Shepherd said the union was not in favour of a full return to face-to-face classes until the new school year in September.

The union said correspondence from the Ministry of Education suggested a full return to face-to-face classes as soon as possible, had received approval from public health officials.

Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw had conceded that with factors like community spread of COVID-19 and the advent of Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), discussions regarding the reopening of school were considerably more complex than they were during the first phase of the pandemic.

The union said the incidence of community spread in families and the fact that more than 100 minors had contracted the illness, were still major concerns for teachers.

The plan to return to the classroom also comes as some teachers and parents express concern about the plan announced by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) to stage in-person exams during June and July across the Caribbean.

This article appears in the March 15 edition of COVID Weekly. Read the full publication here.

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