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Makeba Paponette, of Marabella, leaves SAPA with her children after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine yesterday.

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Makeba Paponette feels like the Government stripped away her freedom over her body as she cannot choose between taking a COVID-19 vaccine and feeding her children.

It was a no-brainer for a visibly upset Paponette, who showed up at the Southern Academy for Performing Arts (SAPA) vaccination site in San Fernando with three of her four children.

She had no intention of taking a COVID-19 vaccine previously but did so for her children.

The single mother works for the Unemployment Relief Programme, a body mandated by the Government to only operate with vaccinated workers.

“I am upset because it is like the Government is forcing this vaccine down single parents’ throats. I am a single parent with four children. They are holding my work against me. If I do not work, my children cannot be fed. My back is against a wall right now. In other words, I have to take it, or otherwise, I cannot feed my children, and that is how it is right now,” Paponette said.

The deadline for the Government-mandated vaccination for the public sector ends on Friday.

Those who do not take the vaccine will go on leave without pay. Paponette left SAPA worried that an adverse reaction to the vaccine could leave her children without a mother.

“I do not feel anything right about now, but I do not know about the after-effects. I am doing this because of my children. I did not want it until they said we had to take it to work.”

A municipal corporation worker was afraid to speak on the record against the vaccine mandate, fearing his superiors would victimise him. He also did not have plans to take the vaccine, saying he feared an adverse reaction.

There was no uptick in public servants getting vaccinated at this site, with the elderly accounting for a large percentage of the total vaccinations during the morning period.

Health workers and people getting their second doses were among those attending.

Minister of Public Administration and Digital Transformation Allyson West said her Ministry had vaccination figures from all ministries.

However, statistics from some public sector entities are outstanding.

“With respect to the former, the latest table I have omits a couple of ministries, so I am waiting for a revised table. What I can tell you is that most have attained a 78-85 per cent vaccinated range. A couple of them are in the 50-60 per cent range, and there are two ministries below 50. The overall average based on the information before me is 69.9 per cent,” West said.

As the Government moves ahead with its public service vaccination, West said the sites were not yet as busy as it hoped. She said the Ministry of Health continues to provide the service as some public servants visit other sites.

“We are hoping that the number keeps improving as we inch closer to ‘D Day’.”

The chance to get a job for the first time in eight years was enough to motivate Nazim Mohammed to take the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine.

At 54 years old, Mohammed said it was difficult staying at home, and the opportunity to work with the Community-Based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme was worth it.

Mohammed took the Johnson & Johnson because he was afraid of injections and did not want another.

“I did not want to take it because it is over 35 years since I have not seen a doctor. I have been strong,” Mohammed said.

Couple Michael and Merle Lawrence were among the elderly who took their third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine yesterday. After taking their second dose, Michael, 75 and Merle, 71, continues to monitor vaccinations and think boosters are necessary given the spread of the Delta and Omicron COVID-19 variants.

Michael said they are also following the Ministry of Health’s protocols. He urges younger people to get vaccinated as well.

“I am concerned, very much, about the younger people who are not really listening. More so, the Ministry is educating people every day, and yet still, they are actually laying a deaf ear on the younger folks. I hope the percentage will increase so that they will take it also,” Michael said.