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October 28, 2021

Students need to have healthy discourse on Covid-19 vaccine; avoid “labelling” peers

Photo source: Office of the Prime Minister Prime Minister Rowley address students at St. Joseph's Convent, Port of Spain (Oct 4, 2021)

Counselling Psychologist Anna Maria Mora said the “labelling” of persons as vaccinated and unvaccinated is causing division. She said young people need to be educated about the Covid-19 vaccine and be able to have discourse.

“We are a society that just jumps on labels…we are not open to people’s opinions; opinions are not facts. We cannot jump on people because they have an opinion,” Mora said in an interview with the Catholic News on October 26.

She was asked to share her views on a CNC3 report quoting the National Parent Teacher Association Interim head, Zena Ramatali, that bullying was happening because “the vaccinated are having issues with the unvaccinated”. She stated in the report, “We have to teach our children how to be our brother’s keeper because this is a pandemic and both sets of students are out.” The Education Ministry announced that unvaccinated students in Forms 4-6 could return to face-to-face classes from October 25. Previously the Ministry said only vaccinated were to report to school from October 4.

Mora said, “We need to be empathic; we need to understand a parent has decided that their child will not get vaccinated… I know some [are] people not getting vaccinated for religious reason, health reasons, a lot us do not know the reasons.”

She said issues such as these could have been ventilated even before students began returning to school. She added, “we are not a society that encourages discussion, ‘is I say so and if you don’t agree, you are a fool’.” The behaviour exhibited by the children was a reflection of what was happening in the wider society.

Mora observed that the views of young people have not been highlighted in relation to the vaccine. “We have to talk to young people about the divisiveness all of this is causing”. She suggested young people receive information on what they may be facing from being unvaccinated, such as being unable to participate in some extra-curricular activities. She said this approach was “not a bribe, it is health”.

Mora also suggested that a teacher who has a rapport with the students can share information with them. The students should have “people with whom they can speak and share their concerns, somebody who will understand.”

According to the data collected by the Ministry of Education up to October 10, 30 per cent of the Forms 4-6 cohort was fully vaccinated; 34 per cent of denominational schools had more than 50 per cent of Forms 4-6 students fully vaccinated and 1 per cent of government schools had more than 50 per cent.