Health and Wellness Minister Dr Michael Darville. Photo: Donavan McIntosh/Tribune staff
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
HEALTH and Wellness Minister Dr Michael Darville said yesterday officials are hoping to receive paediatric doses of the Pfizer vaccine for five to 11-year-olds as soon as possible to assist with the successful opening of schools for face-to-face learning.
The minister would not commit to a timeline yesterday for the restart of in-person learning, telling The Tribune assessments of both schools and clinics are ongoing.
However, he said there were protocols officials intend to use to guide the resumption of face-to-face instruction whenever it should occur.
Last week, the United States Food and Drug Administration authorised the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to include children five through 11 years of age.
That authorisation was on the basis of an FDA in-depth and transparent evaluation of the data which included the views of independent advisory committee experts who overwhelmingly voted in favour of making the vaccine available to children in this age group.
“We just got the tranche of the 134,000 (doses) from the United States and we are hoping that the next tranche they may consider us and put some paediatric doses with that,” Dr Darville told The Tribune yesterday. “That’s what we’re hoping for. That’s what we’re trying to see if we could get.
“But we would like to have it in country as soon as possible to assist with the opening of schools and knowing whether or not some parents would want to have their children have it.”
Asked if it was likely schools would resume in-person learning in January, the minister said: “I don’t—I don’t want to give a date because one hat don’t fit all.
“We first went into the southern Bahamas, central and now we are going into the northern areas because we saw that it was low lying fruit. We don’t have the population size and once (the Ministry of) Education is satisfied that the schools are ready and speaks with the staff and we go in to make sure that we have what we need in place for the protocols to work, we’ll begin to make those recommendations.
“But we are working very diligently to get some sort of face-to-face or some sort of hybrid model moving quickly because the kids are falling behind. So, this is a serious matter that we have at hand but we don’t want to just start opening schools and education and health didn’t have the opportunity to visit the schools.
“So, it’s a very tedious process. We are pretty much visiting every school or as many as we possibly can.”
Last week, Education Minister Glenys Hanna Martin said officials were hoping to soon announce a date for the resumption of face-to-face learning but disclosed that several schools will be unable to open due to an unsatisfactory state of repair.
Speaking in the House of Assembly at the time the Englerston MP did not give a timeline for the in-person opening of schools.
However, she said the schools that suffered “egregious neglect” and will not open include L W Young, Yellow Elder Primary, C W Sawyer Primary, Ridgeland Primary, Sybil Strachan Primary, Uriah McPhee Primary, S C McPherson Junior High School, Gerald Cash Primary School, Carlton Francis Primary and the Centre for the Deaf.
All Family Island schools are ready to open with the exception of George Town Primary and L N Coakley High, both in Exuma, Mrs Hanna Martin said.