– said Minister Anthony, Education Ministry appeals to unvaccinated teachers to get vaccinated
WITH the Ministry of Education moving forward with having schools reopen for face-to-face learning, the Ministry of Health has advised that all students, ages 12 to 18, should be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus before returning to the classrooms. Government has already procured 100,000 doses of the US-made Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine which have been set aside for children ages 12 to 18. The Pfizer vaccine, on Monday, became the first COVID-19 vaccine to receive the US Food and Drug Administration approval. In addition to the advice on vaccination, Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony has also indicated that students are expected to remain masked during the day to minimise chances of contracting the virus.
He noted that social distancing and sanitisation are also requirements that must be met to facilitate the safe reopening of schools for the new school year.
“We’ve been working with the Ministry of Education and advising them the technical things as it relates to reopening. We’ve had joint meetings between the technical staff there and the staff of the ministry and some of the advice that we’ve given relates to masking so students returning to school should have their masks on, they should also keep their distance was also advised that since vaccines are going to be available that children going back to school should be fully vaccinated,” said Dr. Anthony. The Health Minister noted that these guidelines must be met at both private and public schools that intend to facilitate physical learning in the new academic year.
Parents of children between the ages of 12 to 18 are required to indicate their willingness to have their child or children vaccinated through the Ministry of Education’s COVID-19 vaccination permission form. Minister Anthony reminded that only children between the ages of 12 to 18 are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccines.
“Currently, clinical trials are ongoing to look at children from ages five to 12; however, the data on the 12 to five age group is right now not available, and the vaccine so far has not been licensed for that age group. Once the reviews are done and the vaccine is available for emergency use in this age group, then Guyana will be able to do that,” the Health Minister explained.
Minister Anthony stated that according to the Ministry of Education, parents have been responding positively to the idea of vaccines to protect their children from the effects of COVID-19. “Well, so far what I’ve heard from the Ministry of Education is that it’s going well. Parents are responding, and I hope that this trend continues because if we are going to reopen school in a very safe environment and protect the children, then you will have to get vaccinated, and I’m very happy that a lot of parents understand that. And they are eager to get their child immunised, as you know with the Delta variant which is more infectious, where you see it affecting children more adversely, so it is important that children get vaccinated,” said Minister Anthony.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education, in a release, urged those teachers who have not yet taken a vaccine to use this period before the reopening of schools to visit a vaccination site and be administered one of the available COVID-19 vaccines. The Ministry of Health currently has the Astra Zeneca, Johnson and Johnson, Sinopharm and Sputnik V vaccines available for the adult population. “If any of our teachers have questions on these vaccines or any related question, the Ministry of Education has solicited the assistance of three doctors to provide responses and they can be reached on telephone numbers: 650 2289 (Dr. Farah December), 650 2308 (Dr. Oneka Scott) and 650 2312 (Dr. Ertenisa Hamilton). This is to provide teachers with an opportunity to speak with medical professionals and have their concerns addressed.
“Teachers who do not wish to be administered any of the above-mentioned vaccines will be required to submit a negative PCR test once a week. This test is to be done at an approved private facility. Teachers who do not report for duty will be marked absent,” the release said. These measures, it said, also apply to the ancillary staff of each school (cleaners, administrative and other support staff). These measures will be captured in the next Gazetted Order for the new month.
The Ministry of Education will also provide, to all teachers, face masks, face shields, sanitising agents (environ) and spray bottles to assist in ensuring they are safe upon their return to the classroom. As the ministry has said on previous occasions, the reopening will not be the same for every school. Based on the space and circumstances at each school, individualised measures will be applied to ensure the safety of all. Schools will be ready for reopening and parents, along with teachers, will be informed of the individualised reopening measures for the respective schools in the coming days, the ministry said.