Sun | Jun 13, 2021

Teachers in line for first jab

Published:Tuesday | February 23, 2021 | 12:21 AM
Jasford Gabriel, president of the JTA.
Jasford Gabriel, president of the JTA.

Jamaica Teachers’ Association President Jasford Gabriel has welcomed word from the Government that teachers will now be among the priority groups to be inoculated when Jamaica receives batches of the COVID-19 vaccines.

That development could rebuild confidence among parents and teachers in engaging in face-to-face classes, the absence of which has caused marked learning loss among students. Most of Jamaica’s schools have remained shuttered since the mid-March 2020 emergence of the coronavirus.

Education Minister Fayval Williams announced Monday evening that teachers and other persons essential to the operations of schools will be included in the priority category.

Gabriel told The Gleaner that his association was satisfied having lobbied relentlessly for teachers to be included in the list of persons to receive the vaccine first.

“Both teachers and students are highly exposed and ought to be considered and included in the priority listing,” he insisted.

Gabriel said the vaccine will give teachers an additional layer of protection against getting very sick from the COVID-19 disease.

Ease the anxiety

The JTA president said the news will help to ease the anxiety of the teachers who have been worried over the spike in COVID-19 cases in February that has overwhelmed the public-health system.

Jamaica recorded 21,679 coronavirus infections as at Sunday, 8,083 of which are active. Deaths are one shy of 400.

Leaders of Jamaica’s three leading universities and a major teacher-training institution pressed the Government at a Gleaner Editors’ Forum to consider tutors and students as a core cohort for vaccination.

“We couldn’t compete with the nurses and doctors and front-line workers who are faced with that every day, but I think the second string of persons should be those in education,” said Dr Asburn Pinnock, president of The Mico University College, last Thursday.

Gabriel was unable to say, however, what percentage of the more than 20,000 JTA membership had expressed a willingness to be vaccinated. Nonetheless, he told The Gleaner that he intended to take the vaccine when it becomes available.

The JTA president disclosed to The Gleaner that more than 30 schools that had resumed face-to-face operations had been forced to either pause or stop classes because of coronavirus outbreaks.

But Gabriel would not be drawn on whether he would support the full reopening of schools come September.

“I cannot say what percentage of the population is going to be vaccinated for one, neither can I project what the spread of the virus will be.

“We still have to work with some kind of approach for the full reopening of school that is clear and understandable to all,” Gabriel said.