From today, secondary school students, who are not vaccinated against coronavirus (COVID-19) will not be accepted into schools in Antigua and Barbuda unless they have an exemption.
Students and parents were given a 14-day grace period to comply with the vaccine mandate, which came into effect after the Education Act was amended.
Last month, the government said 6,000 of the 8,000 eligible students were unvaccinated.
At yesterday’s post-cabinet media briefing, Information Minister Melford Nicholas noted that Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines were made available at schools and vaccination sites such as the Multipurpose Cultural and Exhibition Centre, the Polyclinic at Villa, the All Saints, Jennings, Clare Hall and Browne’s Avenue Clinics.
But uptake was “marginal to say the least”, according to Nicholas.
The affected students will not be allowed to drop out of the school system since online platforms for learning will be available.
“The Ministry of Education and the director of education were very forceful that they wanted to uphold their mandate to provide education to all as a point of law. We did accept that but also did indicate that there was also the compelling case for public health,” Nicholas said.
“We also want to ensure that all our students have the best opportunity for success and we think that the best environment for them is to be before the teachers in a face to face environment.”
He said the Ministry of Education will also be doing work to ensure students are attending online classes and learning.
The government is also looking at the science on using Pfizer vaccines for children between 5 and 11 years old.