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September 1, 2021

Protecting our students

Archbishop Charles Jason Gordon made an impassioned plea at a pre-Independence Day Mass for all eligible citizens to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Tomorrow, September 6, schools re-open for online classes again but in the expectation that students of Forms Four, Five and Six will return to in-person classes by the beginning of October.

The caveat governing this return is that all students of those classes must be fully vaccinated at least two weeks prior to their physical return to school.

The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the USA Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have approved the Pfizer vaccine for children from the age of 12.  Currently in this country, the vaccine is freely available for students of the upper forms in secondary schools. The reality, however, is that by the end of the fourth week of August, only 25 per cent of the eligible student population have been vaccinated.

The fear-mongering, the fake news, and the sensational reporting of the negative side-effects of the vaccine experienced by a tiny minority of persons have created a huge worry in the minds of parents and their children.

Torn by their desire to have a return to in-person classes and the benefits of interaction between students and their teachers and among their peers, they are also fearful that the relatively recent vaccines may deliver health risks in the short and long-term.

Archbishop Gordon insists that we listen to “the science”, the experts with the knowledge and hands-on experience with this virus and other communicable diseases.  The truth is that the vaccine will provide invaluable protection for our students from the disease which has been running amok in almost every country.

It does not mean that they cannot contract or spread Covid-19 but it does mean that they will have a far better chance of fighting and overcoming the disease and less of a chance of spreading it to others, including members of their families and friends.

Deaths from Covid are much less likely among vaccinated persons and our children must be given the best possible chance to live and to achieve their potential.

The ‘Dr Googles’, especially of the social media seem to derive great satisfaction in focusing on the risks of unwanted side-effects of the vaccine. While there have been cases of myocarditis and pericarditis among adolescents and young adults, the incidents of these conditions have been blown out of proportion in comparison to the millions of vaccines that have been administered without any negative consequences.

In addition, such cases are usually mild and are quickly resolved. The blood clots that have occurred in some instances are, according to the experts, far less threatening than the blood clots caused by Covid.

In sum, the vaccinated student is at a great advantage over one who contracts the disease and has no level of protection.

Even in a fully vaccinated school population, the now ‘normal’ health protocols must still hold sway. Mask-wearing, social distancing and careful attention to sanitising are essential if our students are to enjoy a healthy and uninterrupted school experience.

In Israel, a very high vaccination rate and generally successful suppression of the virus have not prevented the disease from spreading again as soon as that country’s stringent preventive measures were relaxed.

This global threat must be afforded no opportunity to spread or mutate further.

It is imperative that every parent and every student afford themselves the chance to eliminate or lessen the risk of contracting a debilitating and life-threatening illness.

The State is providing the vaccine that will protect the child, the family, the school, and the wider community.

May informed decisions triumph over the misinformation and destructive rumour-mongering that put our children’s lives and health at serious risk.