Vaccines needed for safe return to school in Barbados

With just about half of the eligible school population vaccinated, tremendous efforts are being made to significantly increase those numbers to facilitate the return to face-to-face classes.

This was revealed by the Co-coordinator of the National Vaccination Programme, Major David Clarke who said the current figure was not enough to contemplate allowing children to return to school.

His comments on Tuesday came just four days after the Ministry of Education made the decision to have online classes from next Monday when the new school term commences. Initially, the Ministry was looking at that date for the resumption of face-to-face classes.

In a statement issued last Friday, the Ministry said the decision was taken following the detection of the Omicron variant here, resulting in an increase in positive COVID-19 cases.

However, it advised principals, staff, students and parents to prepare for a possible phased return of face-to-face classes on January 24.

In an interview with Barbados TODAY, Major Clarke revealed that only about 10,500 of the eligible 21,000 students had come forward to get vaccinated.

He maintained that for a safe return to school, that figure had to increase exponentially.

“Of course, we want to get the children vaccinated so that they can get back to school, so the goal now is to try and get as many young people vaccinated – the 11 to 18s – as soon as possible.

“Well, we are at 50 per cent and we really need to get the other 50 per cent. We are at 50 per cent of that eligible school population which is 21,000 and we really need to get the other half of those young people vaccinated so the young people can get back to face-to-face school,” Major Clarke said.

Speaking specifically to the progress of the vaccination programme, he said the numbers were going up slowly but surely.

Major Clarke boasted of success with regard to the rollout of booster shots, saying Barbadians had been coming forward to get their third shots.

“I would like to get more people vaccinated but certainly the people are coming slowly. Every day we are adding a few more so it’s going slowly but of course we need people who are on the fence to come forward and get the vaccine,” he said.

“But the boosters are going extremely well. The people are coming out for the booster. If you think about the people coming to get the boosters those are people who are fully vaccinated and see the need to be revaccinated. It is the ones who don’t have any vaccine at all that we would like to come.”

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