JIS News

President of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA), Jasford Gabriel, is endorsing the move by the Government to commence the vaccination of teachers as a priority group.

Teachers and other employees of educational institutions are among the new categories of persons announced by the Health and Wellness Ministry on Thursday (April 8), who are now qualified to receive the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine.

Also included are persons 60 years and older, tourism workers, and staff members from the Department of Correctional Services, Jamaica Fire Brigade, Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency and Jamaica Customs.

Speaking at the Ministry’s weekly virtual COVID Conversations on Thursday, Mr. Gabriel said that the vaccination of teachers is important for the resumption of face-to-face instruction, even as the Government has established a robust online learning system.

“A lot of work is going on but, certainly, as we prepare for external exams and as we are going to look to bridge the learning loss, it is going to be very important that we look to more face-to-face instruction in the short-term. Given that reality, it is very important that the option is there for teachers to get vaccinated,” he said.

He noted that there is increased willingness among the 25,000 teachers in the education system to take the vaccine.

“The last survey we did about three weeks ago, the pick-up rate across the profession was in the region of 62 per cent (over 13,000 teachers). About two months prior to that, it was in the 30s, and so as time progresses, there is greater buy-in across the teaching profession,” he said.

Mr. Gabriel argued that vaccination of this group is critical, as teachers are highly exposed to coming into contact with the virus through the face-to-face learning modality.

“One of the challenges we have had with face-to-face instruction is the fact that it is so difficult to control the movement of students and gatherings outside [the school plants]… [They] travel daily and they gather in the plazas and given the asymptomatic nature of [some] of our students, it means that our teachers are highly exposed,” the JTA President pointed out.

Mr. Gabriel said that teachers are on board “in terms of ensuring that we follow the protocols and that our young people also follow the protocols as much as possible. We are willing to continue to support this effort, because it will also advance our national development”.

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