TTUTA Tobago officer: Lazy vaccination drive won't work

TTUTA Tobago officer Bradon Roberts - David Reid
TTUTA Tobago officer Bradon Roberts - David Reid

TTUTA Tobago Officer Bradon Roberts said the wrong approach is being used by the Government in its attempt to get students vaccinated against covid19.

Roberts was speaking with Newsday on Tuesday, one day after the Prime Minister announced that the government will not hold its hand if it is faced with a situation where insufficient students – 12 to 18 years – are unvaccinated by mid-September.

Roberts said: “The union has not discussed putting up any resistance to any mandates, because the government will have to do what it has to do, to protect the citizenry.”

Roberts said the reopening of schools is hinged on more than vaccinations.

“Termites are tearing apart our schools and if it is not treated with significantly, within two to three years we would be discussing spending millions of dollars to save our school structures. Termites are only one issue – they have the issue of the labs, they have the issue of furniture, they have plumbing and lighting issues, because those issues did not go away.”

He said certain aspects were addressed to ensure that the CSEC exams could take place, but many schools don’t have a quarantine room and other anti-covid19 infrastructure.

“So, it’s a lot more that is needed, and they need to be honest with themselves and start putting in the work.”

Schools have been closed since March 2020 owing to the spread of covid19.

Last Wednesday, the country entered another phase of its national vaccination programme focused on children ages 12 to 18 getting the Pfizer vaccine. That vaccine is the only one currently approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) for that age group.

Last Thursday, the Division of Education in collaboration with the Division of Health began the rollout of student vaccinations at the Bishop’s High School and the Speyside High School. A total of 352 students got their jabs

On Friday, vaccinations were administered to students at Signal Hill Secondary School and the Pentecostal Light and Life Foundation. The division reported 176 students received the vaccine at Signal Hill Secondary while only 53 got their jab at Pentecostal Light and Life Foundation.

Both the Health Secretary Tracy Davidson-Celestine and Education Secretary Marslyn Melville-Jack said that they are unsatisfied with the response thus far.

But Roberts laid the blame on the Division of Health's covid19 vaccination campaign.

“It is laziness on behalf of the division in terms of the vaccine drive for schools, and it is laziness on behalf of the government on lack of strategy.

"The division, the government, they are throwing out information that supports the uptake of the vaccine. There is almost equal amount of conspiracies against the vaccines out there and we are just hoping what the government and the division is putting out would drown that out – it is not going to work that way.

"They need to be like firefighters; so there is a particular conspiracy, there needs to be somewhat of a fact check on it, something that would denounce that conspiracy.”

Bishop’s High student Emmanuel Bess, centre, is vaccinated while his father Peter Henry looks on at Bishop’s High School, Scarborough last Thursday. - David Reid

He added: “Persons who are vaccine hesitant are not trying to find information to be convinced, they are all taken up in the social media feeding the belief that they already have. So, they need to target these things, target the area where the misinformation is and put a counter to it to alleviate and eradicate some of those fears that persons have.”

Roberts said the division should not have had school principals reaching out to parents to ask their approval to vaccinate their children.

“That is not the approach that would win over persons. When these parents have concerns – the principals are not doctors that would give them that medical response to be able to convince them, especially if they’re hesitant already. The principals should be able to provide the contact information and so on but they need to reach out to schools directly, reach out to parents directly – they need to have in the communities the area representatives and so on, to have direct communication with the citizenry in Tobago.”

Roberts said he is fully vaccinated and has encouraged others to get the jab.

However, he said shaming those who do not want to be vaccinated will not work.

“It’s sort of a war, they need to strategise to be able to win over.”

He added: “They are actually trying to pressure the union into telling teachers to be vaccinated – that is not our job, that is not out role; what we are doing, because we have to represent those persons who are saying that they’re not taking the vaccine, is providing enough information that would encourage our teachers to so take up the opportunity to be vaccinated."


"TTUTA Tobago officer: Lazy vaccination drive won’t work"

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