The rains came down while these pensioners waited for information about their COVID-19 jab from the La Romaine Health Centre. (Image: RISHI RAGOONATH)
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Huddled under umbrellas, scores of pensioners turned up for vaccines at health centres in South Trinidad on Wednesday.

At the La Romaine Health Centre chairs were provided for the pensioners as they sat, socially distanced, in the rain. Those under the age of 65 years were turned away.

This was also the case at the Ste Madeleine Health Centre where only 100 vaccines were administered.

Hansraj Muradali, who stood under an umbrella, said the conditions could have been better.

“Look where they have us, in the rain!  It should be a system where we walk in get vaccinated and walk out,” Muradali said.

Robert Smith said he came for a vaccine but was told only 100 people would be accommodated.

Despite the hiccups, staff worked quickly to ensure that the vaccines were administered swiftly.

At SAPA where second doses were being given, people were also socially distanced under tents.

By 10 am, the lines had dissipated. Many people came for vaccines as early as 6 am.

The South-West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) has since issued a statement in its social media pages, concerning those persons who were turned away from health centres, today.

“The SWRHA notes videos and pictures circulating on social media of persons 65 years and over outside a few of our health facilities. While we strive for an efficient system overlay for the vaccination process, these valued citizens were without confirmed appointments. These persons were so advised by our attending staff to resolve the situation. We continue to remind that SWRHA will call and schedule appointments for persons 65 and over. This process avoids congregation in breach of the current public health regulations,” the SWRHA statement read.

Appointment system in place and working

Speaking to Guardian Media, the chief executive officer of the Southwest Regional Health Authority, Dr Brian Armour, said the SWRHA was satisfied with the process so far.

He said the second AstraZeneca vaccine is being administered at SWRHA’s mass vaccination site at SAPA, while 14 Health facilities administer concurrently the 1st and 2nd dose of Sinopharm.

“The issue of persons receiving an advance appointment of date and time is currently the same at sites administering both types of vaccines,” Dr Armour said.

He noted that SWRHA has been allotted about 6,000 first doses of Sinopharm vaccine to be administered from this batch.

“This can be subject to change by the Ministry of Health, based on their national policy review of national uptake and all priority groups under their purview to receive. This is part of the 20,000 vaccines allocated and assigned to Trinidad Regional Health Authorities, nationally,” he said.

He noted that despite complaints, the appointment process has been working well.

“Persons are visiting our centres based on an appointment system. SWRHA has contacted eligible persons in the 65-years-plus category to receive the first dose to visit our centres. All persons upon receiving their first dose are automatically given a date and time appointment for their second dose before leaving the facility,” he added.

He said even though people are eager for appointments, they should await further directives provided by the Ministry.

“The SWRHA, in collaboration with volunteer organisations and individuals as well as retirees, has teamed up to ensure the rollout exercise is seamless and of an excellent standard,” Dr Armour noted.