The Government has rejected the views of some that virtual schooling should continue for all pupils “indefinitely”, and will be moving ahead with its original plan to allow fully vaccinated pupils of Forms Four to Six to return to the physical classroom from October 4.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said at yesterday’s news conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s: “We’ve worked towards it, we’ve worked for it and we want to benefit from it.”
Rowley indicated that to date, 39,000, or approximately 43 per cent of the 90,000 pupils between the ages of 12 and 18 years old have received the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.
He pointed out that had 15 to 20 per cent of the school population been vaccinated, this would not have been an issue because in that scenario of 80 per cent vaccinated, the virus “would have been losing the war”.
“And some people who should be helping us with this programme to get the children vaccinated...spread the good word to those who would be influenced by you to get the children vaccinated, so that they could benefit from a school at the school house... we’re being told to let what has been going on continue indefinitely.
“Today, I could tell you that the Government has rejected that advice and the Government stays with its original position,” Rowley said.
“Those 39,000 students, as they become fully vaccinated, which is two weeks after their second shot, school will open for all practitioners and participants at the schoolhouse on October 4 for Forms Four, Five and Six to be fully attended in the curriculum of those forms.
“And for those students who are not fully vaccinated, they will not be allowed to participate on the school compound, but we’ll make alternative arrangements for them to participate in schooling in the virtual way,” he said.
Rowley added: “These are decisions, not by anybody bullying anybody, but by free choice. You can’t have a freer choice than that, and it’s being done in an environment of luxury where the vaccines approved for children are available in Trinidad and Tobago and come in a programme of preparation... and as students become more and more vaccinated, if they are, they will join their colleagues at the schoolhouse.”
Last month, the Government received a donation of 305,370 Pfizer vaccines out of a total of approximately 908,000 shots from the United States government.
Rowley said yesterday that the current batch of Pfizer vaccines was initially supposed to expire in November. Hwever, according to studies, the vaccine would still be effective beyond three months, and is recommended for use for “another few months”.
“That is good news. It means that the vaccines that we have in hand will not be dumped after November,” Rowley said.
He said after spending all of April, May and June fighting for vaccines for children, and after receiving the first batch of Pfizer, T&T was in line to receive another batch of about 600,000 of the vaccines.
“But look at my predicament: if we allow the vaccines that we got in the first tranche to not be utilised and to be wasted, do you really see success in going back to the US and saying since we wasted the last batch you’ve given us and we had to dump half of it, could you give us some more, please, like Oliver Twist?” Rowley said.