“When I heard that in two weeks forms one to three could go back to school if they are vaccinated, I told my mother I wanted to go.”
Those were the words of 12-year-old Alyssa Rodulfo as she was about to get the Pfizer covid19 vaccine at the Diego Martin South Community Centre, Diego Martin on Saturday morning.
During her budget debate contribution on Friday, Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly said if all goes well fully vaccinated students of forms one to three would be allowed to return to physical school in the next two weeks.
Rodulfo heard the news about the possible return to physical school for lower secondary schools in a class WhatsApp chat, and she wanted to get back out. She was also motivated to get vaccinated because her older sister wanted to take her out for sushi but she needed to be vaccinated to enter a safe zone.
Sojourner Hyles-Lewis, former national netballer, basketballer and rugby player, and member of the Defence Force carried her two children to be vaccinated at their request.
She was at a nearby supermarket when her 12-year-old daughter and 17-year-old son expressed an interest in being vaccinated. She asked the supermarket attendants about a vaccination site in the area, and they told her about the community centre.
“I got vaccinated a while ago but I was weighing the options where the children were concerned. I was sceptical so was waiting on a little more information on the effects on children. But they said they wanted it, and I will be supportive.”
She added that her daughter wanted to return to physical school, and her son wanted to return to playing basketball and he was aware he had to be vaccinated to play group sports as well as to travel abroad.
The desire expressed by those ages 12-18 reinforced the Prime Minister’s continued encouragement for children to get vaccinated.
Speaking to members of the media at the vaccination site, Dr Rowley said, “We expect that children would want to go to school. It’s a tremendous psychological pressure on the children to be home. We, as a government, as a country, we believe that we are sufficiently safe to bring out children to school as we continue to follow the health protocols.”
He said the average parent did not want their children to be away from school so, as more children get vaccinated, more should be able to go to physical schools and get a better education compared to online schooling.
“Many people who are not taking part are still watching and waiting for a deeper comfort zone and we are hoping that as they see that others are doing it and benefiting from it, that they will join in.”
He said getting the vaccines was his most difficult job as Prime Minister.
“Fortunately we succeeded and now we have what is required. Come and use it, one, to save lives; two, to (stave off) serious illness; and three, to get our economy and families going again.”
He added that vaccination was a good opportunity to protect loved ones and for families to get together for Christmas. He expected that many people understood the necessity of getting vaccinated and they would go do so.
“The State, the Government, we are all operating on the science of this. What the science says, what the clinical data says, and we’re guided by the health department. And we believe that, eventually, that conversation will soak in to most people and allow us to get back to some semblance of normalcy.”
Two hours into the event, around 11 am, 59 people were vaccinated and Rowley expects there to be a similar event in Carenage in a few weeks.
Even as Rowley encouraged more people to become vaccinated for their safety, many are doing so for the convenience.
Jolyicia Joseph, a student at the University of Trinidad and Tobago, said vaccination was mandatory to attend some workshops, and felt it would be easier to go to companies for internships.
“I realise that by getting vaccinated it will be easier to live in the country and it will make more things accessible. I don’t really worry about getting covid because the pandemic hasn’t changed much for me. I live alone, I have no one to quarantine with, and I mostly went to school online anyway.”
A 59-year-old man from Diego Martin said he was getting vaccinated “because of the nudges” from the Government and similar nudges from governments around the world.
He said he was not interested in going to the gym or bars, and believed “safe zones” was a false premise because the virus was airborne so no one was be 100 per cent safe. But he needed to go to places of business and have freedom of movement so he decided to get the one-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
“I am seeing that, somewhere along the line, we might need to be vaccinated to go into a government building or to the supermarket so I’m looking ahead and taking in front.”
He was not overly concerned about getting covid19 because he said he was strict about washing his hands or sanitising, wearing his mask and keeping his distance from other people in public. He believed that would be enough to keep him relatively safe and was disappointed that the those preventative measures had taken a backseat to “the fight about vaccination.”