Teachers have been bundled into the list of frontline workers. To date, sixty percent of teachers have been vaccinated in Belize. That is according to the BNTU President, Senator Elena Smith. That means, there are still several hundred teachers who have not gotten the jab as yet. Senator Smith explained that part of the discomfort for our educators is not necessarily due to a hesitance to take the vaccine, but rather, it is based on S.I. 74’s cadence that is seemingly trampling on fundamental rights and freedoms.
Elena Smith, President, BNTU: “It has not been ‘well you know what I will never take it or I will not.’ it has been ‘This is my fear and so when I get to the point that I am comfortable enough with whatever information I get, whatever research I do and I feel comfortable now then I will take the vaccine. ‘ For that reason then a lot of our teachers are really and truly concerned about that SI because they are saying that while the government is saying that it’s not mandatory the way the SI is written it’s like you are telling me it’s not mandatory but you are also telling me on the other hand if I don’t do it by this date then these are the consequences. And so they feel then that they are being forced and their rights are being taken away from them the right for them to decide you know when it is they are comfortable to take the vaccine and we fully understand. I don’t want for persons to misunderstand, we fully understand the impact of COVID, we fully understand that for us to be able to maybe open up some more there has to be a unified effort for us to be able to get there. We understand that the situation as it relates to persons working, places reopening you know that sort of thing those are dependent on how well we are doing with our cases. We understand all of that.”
In addition to the ultimatum presented in the statutory instrument, Senator Smith adds that because PCR tests are not done quickly, teachers will be set back financially given that they will have to be out of the classroom until the results come.
=Elena Smith, President, BNTU: “I want to reiterate that it has never been that we are saying we must not and we will not. Our members are saying at this point in time I am not yet comfortable so give me some time for me to continue to better understand and be able to make up my mind to say okay I’m ready now, I will do it now. So they believe they are being forced and the matter of them having to go and take this test every two weeks really and truly puts them in a situation where they’re not very comfortable. Because the test you will not get your results in a day so it means that while you wait for that test the SI is saying that you can’t report to work and if I can’t report ot work because the test is taking three, four, five days for me to get my results every two weeks I am out for a week that is going to affect me. Will I be paid for that time ? Do I have to pay for the vaccines? We are hearing that some persons are saying well no you don’t have to pay but we have not seen that in any official document as yet. So those are the concerns that our teachers are having as it relates to how this SI is going to.”
Senator Smith herself conceded that she is not yet comfortable with the jab over her fear of needles.