The principal of a leading secondary school in Kingstown, on Thursday, cried as she met with her staff, more than half of whom had not submitted proof of COVID-19 vaccination, one day before the government mandate came into effect.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) is expected to know today (Friday) the extent to which public sector workers have responded to the mandate, which states that a wide cross section of state employees must prove they are vaccinated, if they are to remain on their jobs.
Any unvaccinated worker who has not been exempted from taking the jab will be considered as absent from work, even if they turn up. They will be considered to have abandoned their jobs after being “absent” for 10 consecutive days.
In the case of teachers, they will be marked absent, whether they teach online or face-to-face in a classroom.
In a voice note circulated on Thursday, President of the SVG Teachers’ Union, Oswald Robinson, urged all teachers to go to work.
“Don’t give up, do not resign; go to work,” he said and urged teachers to rally the support of parents, saying that the vaccine mandate may soon affect students.
“… you have to mobilise the parents. Every move we make, we communicate to the parents. We know the ministry, they are trying to engage the parents now but the parents have been affected by all these things.
“So, communicate with your parents, so that we could win them on our side. Let them know that this vaccination thing, they’re coming with the children also. Make it clear that the union and you, you’re not against vaccination, but the mandatory vaccination.”
As of Thursday, 51,288 doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered in the country, even as the government had hoped to have put 50,000 jabs into arms by last April.
Of the vaccines administered, 29,249 were second doses, and 21,500 were first doses.
The number of active cases of COVID-19 across the country was 1,243 and since March, 2020, SVG has recorded 5,359 cases of COVID-19 and 73 people have died of the illness.
Robinson said “the authorities continue to confuse themselves” and that teachers were gaining “the upper hand in this battle.
“We cannot give up at this time; we are going to fight to the end,” he said.
In addition to teachers, administrative and ancillary staff are required to present evidence of vaccination for COVID-19 by today.
Any staff member who does not submit evidence of COVID-19 vaccination will be considered unvaccinated and will not be allowed to enter the school’s compound and should not show up for work, the Ministry of Education has said.
Any unvaccinated staff who shows up for work after today, whether they do so on or offline, will be considered absent.
Schools across the country reopened last month for the first time this year, with a hybrid model seeing students going to the physical classroom on some days, and taking their lessons online on others.
The ministry said that unvaccinated staff will be considered to be on unauthorised leave, without pay.
And, as is the case with other public servants, any staff member who misses 10 consecutive days of work would be deemed to have abandoned their jobs, based on the Statutory Regulations and Order
Staff presently on leave of any kind are not exempt from the mandate, the ministry siad, adding that where exemptions are sought and granted, the exempted staff members will be transferred within the public service, if they can be facilitated.
Where the exempted staff member is allowed to continue to engage with students, they must be tested consistently, based on the prescribed schedule.
Any staff member who was previously diagnosed with COVID-19 must seek a temporary medical exemption which will exempt them from vaccination for four weeks from the date of their initial diagnosis with the COVID-19.
Staff members seeking medical exemptions due to a history of blood clots will be exempted from taking the AstraZeneca vaccine — which is currently unavailable in SVG.
All unvaccinated staff members who have special responsibilities at school must hand over all documents, keys, etc. to the principal or the person in administrative control, the ministry.