ST. Vincent’s labor unions encourage members to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

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BROOKLYN, NY – The two main unions representing public sector workers have urged their members to take the COVID-19 vaccine as the government ramps up its vaccination drive with the hope of immunizing 50,000 persons over the next month once enough jabs are available.

The Public Service Union (PSU) and St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union (SVGTU) have separately advised their members to get the jab.

Since March 2020, there have been 1,646 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 684 of which remain active. There have been eight COVID-19-related deaths.

The PSU’s public relations officer, Shelly-Ann Alexander-Ross, a nurse, said at a press conference that while no drug has been developed to cure or eliminate a person’s chances of contracting COVID-19, vaccination has provided public health benefits for decades.

“So, we have evidence of that. And we have not had any normalcy… in terms of the life that we knew. We have to wear masks, we have to keep our distance, we can’t have activities,” she noted.

Alexander-Ross pointed out that several organizations, such as the World Health Organization, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Pan-American Health Organization, said that there needs to be a need for the world to get back to normalcy be a significant level of community immunization.

“How do we get to that place?…. Vaccination can be the method of taking us from where we are to a normal level. So, it’s based on that and based on what is happening [that] we want to encourage persons to make an informed decision to be vaccinated,” she said.

“So we hope that persons basically would think about it, think about the situation that we’re in now and think about how we’re going to get to the place where we can all be together, that we don’t have to be wearing these masks all the time and so forth.”

A similar message came from the SVGTU at a separate press conference.

“I think the whole issue of vaccines is one where we are saying teachers must have their research done,” said industrial relations and research officer Andrew John.

“Do your research, and with the relevant research, you can make a decision,” he said, adding that the top infectious disease professional in the United States was advising that persons take whatever vaccine is available.

“It is important in ensuring that you stay safe in this pandemic. So, I would let the president, who I think would be better positioned to state the union’s position on this. But personally, I think I would advocate for it,” John said.

SVGTU president Oswald Robinson reported that Chief Medical Officer Dr. Simone Keizer-Beache had contacted him to say that the vaccine was available and “they are willing and ready to facilitate teachers.”

“And we said to our teachers, ‘Well, this is what is being offered; this is the opportunity to take the vaccine.’ But we make it clear that it is not mandatory. Because, as a trade union, you have to respect people’s right to choose or not to choose,” Robinson said.

“So, we encourage our teachers to take the vaccine because if the state has this national program and you think that it is going to assist you, then you take it. If you have doubts about it, when you are more confident, if you need a little bit more education on it, you should seek the education and take whatever is available for your safety and your own health.

“We know that there is a diversity that exists among our members in terms of people’s cultural, religious, even political aspirations or affiliations or background. We cannot mandate or force our members to do something, which is, more or less, of a personal nature because your health is your personal undertaking. So, it has to do with your mindset. If you are willing to take it, we will encourage you to take it. We can’t force you, but we will encourage you,” Robinson added.

The Public Service Union (PSU) and St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union (SVGTU) have separately advised their members to get the jab.

Since March 2020, there have been 1,646 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 684 of which remain active. There have been eight COVID-19-related deaths.

The PSU’s public relations officer, Shelly-Ann Alexander-Ross, a nurse, said at a press conference that while no drug has been developed to cure or eliminate a person’s chances of contracting COVID-19, vaccination has provided public health benefits for decades.

“So, we have evidence of that. And we have not had any normalcy… in terms of the life that we knew. We have to wear masks, we have to keep our distance, we can’t have activities,” she noted.

Alexander-Ross pointed out that several organizations, such as the World Health Organization, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Pan-American Health Organization, said that there needs to be a need for the world to get back to normalcy be a significant level of community immunization.

“How do we get to that place?…. Vaccination can be the method of taking us from where we are to a normal level. So, it’s based on that and based on what is happening [that] we want to encourage persons to make an informed decision to be vaccinated,” she said.

“So we hope that persons basically would think about it, think about the situation that we’re in now and think about how we’re going to get to the place where we can all be together, that we don’t have to be wearing these masks all the time and so forth.”

A similar message came from the SVGTU at a separate press conference.

“I think the whole issue of vaccines is one where we are saying teachers must have their research done,” said industrial relations and research officer Andrew John.

“Do your research, and with the relevant research, you can make a decision,” he said, adding that the top infectious disease professional in the United States was advising that persons take whatever vaccine is available.

“It is important in ensuring that you stay safe in this pandemic. So, I would let the president, who I think would be better positioned to state the union’s position on this. But personally, I think I would advocate for it,” John said.

SVGTU president Oswald Robinson reported that Chief Medical Officer Dr. Simone Keizer-Beache had contacted him to say that the vaccine was available and “they are willing and ready to facilitate teachers.”

“And we said to our teachers, ‘Well, this is what is being offered; this is the opportunity to take the vaccine.’ But we make it clear that it is not mandatory. Because, as a trade union, you have to respect people’s right to choose or not to choose,” Robinson said.

“So, we encourage our teachers to take the vaccine because if the state has this national program and you think that it is going to assist you, then you take it. If you have doubts about it, when you are more confident, if you need a little bit more education on it, you should seek the education and take whatever is available for your safety and your own health.

“We know that there is a diversity that exists among our members in terms of people’s cultural, religious, even political aspirations or affiliations or background. We cannot mandate or force our members to do something, which is, more or less, of a personal nature because your health is your personal undertaking. So, it has to do with your mindset. If you are willing to take it, we will encourage you to take it. We can’t force you, but we will encourage you,” Robinson added.

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