An opposition lawmaker has begged the government to reinstate teachers who lost their jobs over the COVID-19 vaccine last year.
Fitz Bramble, MP for East Kingstown, told Parliament that reinstating the teachers, even if they are unvaccinated, would not worsen the nation’s COVID-19 situation.
In December, hundreds of teachers and other public sector workers lost their jobs because they did not vaccinate against COVID-19, as a law passed by the Cabinet mandated.
Debating, on Thursday, a bill to grant pension to certain teachers who retired at 55, thinking they would get certain benefits, Bramble said the scientific justification for the vaccine was to stop the spread of the COVID-19 and reduce the chances of hospitalisation among those who contracted the illness.
Bramble noted that at the time of the meeting of Parliament, the country had two active cases of COVID-19.
“Now, the question is, why are we down to two active cases. It’s certainly not because our rate of vaccination increased to the extent of bringing about that reality.”
He said the situation is dynamic, “but, unfortunately, it seems like this administration is hell bent on being stiff necked with regard to moving with the dynamism of the whole situation.”
He noted that SVG has not gotten close to the 70% herd immunity that was said was required to even start to consider going back to some level of normalcy.
“… but we are down to two active cases, then why can’t we reinstate the teachers?” said Bramble, a former educator.
“The situation is different now. Could it even be possible that by reinstated the unvaccinated teacher the rate of the spread of the virus is going to go back up? I don’t believe so.”
He pleaded, “in the spirit with which I believe this bill is intended, that we go a few steps further and seriously consider reinstating the teachers…”
Bramble said that doing so would do no harm nor worsen the nation’s COVID situation.
He said that reinstating the teachers was important “because of our economic situation which is rapidly worsening not because of any particular doings of our own but we know what’s going on globally and otherwise.”
The opposition lawmaker said reinstating the teachers “would be a very sensitive and compassionate thing to do.
“I am quite sure that if an election was pending, the decision would have been different. So, again, I would like to beg and plead, Honourable Prime Minister, to give some consideration, man. Please.
“Because, reinstating the teachers, even if they are not vaccinated, it’s not going to worsen our situation and I am quite sure they would appreciate that gesture.”
As of Sunday, SVG had two active cases of COVID-19 from 6,747 PCR cases and 1,591 rapid antigen cases confirmed since March 2020.
The country has recorded 106 deaths as a result of COVID-19.
So far, 69,802 doses of vaccines had been administered, made up of 36,106 first dose, 30,212 second dose, and 3,484 boosters.
Bramble noted the relaxation of COVID-19 measures globally.
“As close as Trinidad and Tobago, a country whose government, in my view, undertook one of the most stringent of management approaches to the virus, Prime Minister Rowley, just last week, said, ‘I don’t see any reason why I should not open back up Trinidad and Tobago fully.’
“And I am quite sure that the rate of infection in Trinidad and Tobago and the number of active cases are higher than what we have here. So, we need to show a level of flexibility, we need to show a level of moving with the times,” Bramble said.
He went on to speak about a document announcing the relaxation of COVID-19 measures in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Minister of Health, St. Clair Prince confirmed its authenticity.
“So it seems like the pressure is easing up a little bit, but the fact of the matter is, the impact of the vaccine mandate on the teachers who were dismissed cannot be minimised only, or at all, in my view, by this bill,” Bramble said.
He echoed that the COVID-19 pandemic is “a huge challenge to manage.
“And I respect the efforts of the government but I think those efforts could have been much more effective had the approach included a degree of bipartisanship, including the participation and expertise of people on this side of the house.”
Bramble said he believes that one of the reasons the government was “hell-bent on holding fast to that policy is because they are afraid that they will be accused of being weak and flip-flopping…”
He noted that St. Lucian public servants will receive a salary increase next month.
“But we are here still dilly dallying about whether or not we should reinstate hard working, professional competent teachers who really and truly don’t deserve to be where they are,” Bramble said.
“You can still advocate for them to take the vaccine but they should not be punished for not taking it. “