– by Randy Bennett September 10, 2021
Prime Minister Mia Mottley today hinted that the COVID-19 vaccine could be added to the list of mandatory vaccines children will need to attend school in Barbados.
While Mottley reiterated Government’s stance that it would not be mandating adults to take the vaccine, she said students were required by law to receive vaccinations before they were accepted into nursery, primary or secondary school.
Currently, children are required to be immunized against several diseases including measles, mumps, rubella, polio and tuberculosis.
Just over two weeks ago Government made the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine available to children 12 years and older.
“We have given the country this assurance that we will not mandate adults, but we equally have a system that has been in place for decades with respect to the vaccination of children in schools. On the previous occasion that I spoke, I mentioned that we have a system that requires all students to be vaccinated unless you have the exception that is triggered by religious persuasion or a medical condition and the ministries of health and education deal with those in a seamless way,” Mottley said during a nationally-televised address from Ilaro Court this afternoon.
The Prime Minister said even as Government was targeting mid-October for a possible return to face-to-face classes, there needed to be a higher vaccination percentage among students.
Mottley said so far only one in every five children between the ages of 12 and 18 has been vaccinated.
She said it was also necessary for there to be a significant reduction in the overall number of cases on the island as some schools had been converted into isolation facilities to deal with the surge.
“I want us as a country please to set the target that within the next five weeks – to the middle of October – that we are capable of vaccinating as many of our students as possible because those persons need to be able to get back in to functional school and there are so many parents who are already asking about why we can’t do it.
“We recognize that there are some schools, and the Ministry of Education will set out the criteria, that might meet this target quicker than others. And who do we need to help us meet this target? We need the PTAs [Parent Teacher Associations], we need the teachers, we need the parents, we need the class groups…and we need to do this with a target for the middle of October,” Mottley reiterated.
“We are currently using secondary schools to help us with tertiary isolation, but we expect that if we can boost our overall vaccine rate and if we can do the introduction of a new framework for home quarantine and home isolation then we will be able to get to that sense of new normalcy as fast as we can.”