Did Holness really misspeak?Wednesday, May 12, 2021
I listened to the Andrew Holness, prime minister, provide an update on COVID-19 restriction protocols in Parliament on Tuesday, May 4, 2021 and I welcomed the announcement that students sitting exams will be allowed to be back in face-to-face classes with their teachers. This move was late, as there are yet to be any scientific analyses to support the closing of schools. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has maintained that the survival rate for children who contract the novel coronavirus is very high, 99.997 per cent ( https://www.winknews.com/2020/09/23/cdc-shows-covid-19-has-high-survival-rate-doctor-still-wants-to-see-precautions-taken)Why would we close schools when the survival rate amongst students is so high?
We are now seeing the negative impact of this decision. There is a rise in crime among school-age children and there are also increasing learning gaps right across Jamaica as teachers battle with poor online attendance and participation.
I found one aspect of the prime minister's speech very intriguing. He indicated that vaccinated teachers would be the ones providing the face-to-face instruction to the students. The prime minister needs to be more straightforward in his pronouncement. Is he saying that teachers who decide not to be vaccinated will not be allowed to conduct face-to-face instruction? If this is the intention then the prime minister would be going against the Ministry of Labour's view.
In a report carried by the Jamaica Observer on April 15, 2021, a private sector company had given its employees an ultimatum to be vaccinated. In response to this, the state minister at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security Zavia Mayne said, “So far as I am aware there is no law in Jamaica, and certainly not from this Government, giving employers the right to compel an employee to take the vaccine as a means of securing employment.” ( https://www.jamaicaobserver.com/front-page/jab-or-no-job-employers-warned-that-they-could-be-in-trouble-if-they-fire-employees-who-refuse-to-take-covid-19-vaccine_219220). The prime minister and his junior minister, Zavia Mayne, are making contradictory statements. Did the prime minister speak off the top of his head or was this 'vaccine' requirement written in his text? I would like to know.
Minister of Education Fayval has made statements more in line with what Mayne has indicated, but did Holness intend to do otherwise? Was there ever a plan to have vaccination a requirement for face-to-face instruction?
Jamaican teachers read widely and they would know that the AstraZeneca vaccine has yet to be fully approved by the United States of America ('AstraZeneca hits another bump in the road to COVID-19 vaccine approval in the US' by Kate Goodwin, April 30, 2021 [ https://www.pharmalive.com/astrazeneca-covid-19-vaccine-u-s-approval-delayed]). In some countries in Europe the use of AstraZeneca has been restricted to persons over the age of 55 ( https://www.iol.co.za/news/world/all-the-countries-that-restricted-or-suspended-use-of-astrazeneca-and-j-and-j-covid-19-vaccines-15e22cb0-3fef-4dab-9176-ebb7862fa6bb). This is common knowledge and any hesitance among the teachers to being vaccinated is understandable. This issue requires dialogue rather than heavy-handedness.
Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at https://bit.ly/epaper-login