Education professionals are saying many teachers have already been vaccinated, contrary to the Prime Minister’s address on Thursday, when he expressed disappointment at vaccine hesitancy among teachers.
On Thursday, during a post-Cabinet briefing at his official residence in Blenheim, Tobago, Dr Rowley expressed concern about reports that some teachers did not want to be vaccinated.
“I hope that is just a temporary setback there,” he said. “I would like to have as many (as possible) of our teachers vaccinated as we go forward.”
President of the National Primary Schools Principals Association (NAPSPA) Carlene Hayes said the association did not have much information about the vaccination drive.
The Ministry of Education was allocated 5,000 vaccines for educational professionals in addition to the 4,000 given before the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) and Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) exams, which began in June.
“We have advocated for teachers to take the vaccine, especially before SEA. We don’t know of any hesitancy,” said Hayes.
She also said many teachers would have had the vaccine before the ministry launched its drive this week.
“They would have already gotten their vaccine through a health centre. Some teachers may opt not to take the vaccine through the ministry because they have already gotten it. Some teachers are already going for their second dose.”
She said more data is needed from the Ministry of Health to support Rowley’s concern, and there may be a loophole in the data collection by the ministry that led to hiss statement.
Principal of Fatima College in Port of Spain Fr Gregory Augustine said most of his teachers – about 90 per cent – have been vaccinated.
“What happened is that some of us were vaccinated before the opportunity for teachers.” Augustine suggested that may have contributed to the number of teachers who chose not to take the vaccines being offered by the Ministry of Education this week.
He said the ministry needs to say how many teachers have not been vaccinated.
He said, however, Rowley and the ministry are making an effort and it would be unfortunate if there were in fact teachers who were not responding to the call to be vaccinated.
“I would like (teachers) to remain firm in their desire to be vaccinated.”
President of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) Antonia de Freitas said, “It might be wise to investigate first and do some checking before making such pronouncements.
“TTUTA has encouraged members to utilise vaccination opportunities.”
She said the vaccination of educational professionals and possibly students is one part of an integrated plan for the physical reopening of schools.
Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, in a brief statement to Newsday via WhatsApp, said the ministry continues to encourage all staff and students over 18 to take advantage of the opportunities for vaccination.
“Those who missed the ministry-dedicated days are encouraged to make their own appointments or take advantage of walk-in opportunities.
"The vaccination of all personnel involved in school administration has been recommended by our stakeholders, and the government has accepted this and continues to make vaccines available.
“Missing the allocated days does not mean that vaccination cannot be obtained.
"We encourage persons to take their jabs at this time. Vaccines are readily available.”