BUT president Belinda Wilson.
By TANYA SMITHCARTWRIGHT
TAKING the COVID-19 vaccine should be a personal choice for teachers, Bahamas Union of Teachers President Belinda Wilson said yesterday.
The government has made a downpayment for a vaccine to administer to 20 percent of the population through an agreement with the Pan American Health Organisation. The vaccine should be available in the country by the first quarter of this year.
However, there is scepticism from some in the public sector with the chairman of the Police Staff Association, Sonny Miller, recently saying his members have not yet made a decision about taking the vaccine.
Recently, former Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands and Bahamas Nurses Union President Amancha Williams both expressed concern about possible long-term effects of the new vaccines and indicated the government should not be quick to administer doses without first doing a further study on whichever vaccine is chosen.
Yesterday, Mrs Wilson weighed in on the issue.
“I am cognizant of the fact teachers are on the frontline and we’re on the frontline alongside 48,000 students in the public school system,” she said. “But the view is that the vaccine should be made available to all Bahamians, but not mandatory. It should be voluntary. Teachers as well as other workers must make the personal choice for themselves and their families as to whether or not they will take the vaccine.”
Health officials have said the vaccine will not be mandatory.
“However, I am very concerned about the new UK strain of the virus. Reportedly, it is already in approximately 60 countries and it has a transmissible rate as high as 70 percent,” Mrs Wilson added. “Even more alarming is that it could mean that children are susceptible. Very recently in the US, they recorded over 211,000 children of school age who were infected with COVID-19.”
Mrs Wilson said citizens of The Bahamas need to be entirely educated on every aspect of the vaccine before distribution and administering begins.
She continued: “So for us here in The Bahamas, I would say that we need education about the vaccine, its benefits and its effects. And, we need education and information on the process and the procedure for the vaccination whenever that process begins.
“As president of the Bahamas Union of Teachers and personally, I am pleased and relieved that several vaccines are now available. Although they are in their early stages of roll out and trials are ongoing the efficacy of vaccines such as Pfizer and Moderna at 95 percent and 91.5 percent, respectively, gives us hope. But. I would say, again, as for the teachers it is their personal choice.”
The Tribune reached out to Minister of Health Renward Wells for comment about the concerns expressed by public sector leaders about the vaccines, however he did not respond up to press time.
Recently, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced the formation of the National COVID-19 Vaccine Consultative Committee, headed by Dr Mercelene Dahl-Regis. The committee will oversee all matters pertaining to the vaccines going forward.
Members of the public have also expressed concern with the membership of the committee.
Dr Sabriquet Pinder-Butler, president of the Consultant Physician Staff Association (CPSA), has expressed concern that there are not enough physicians represented on the committee.