People sit outside the San Juan Health Centre to receive the COVID-19 vaccine yesterday.

Gloomy skies and intermittent rainfall yesterday morning was not enough to deter the hundreds of elderly citizens who turned up to get their first dose of the Sinopharm and the second dose of AstraZeneca vaccines at health centres across the country, as the Ministry of Health made attempts to correct problems with vaccine delivery which resulted in chaos last week.

However, some people disregarded the ministry’s stipulations and arrived for vaccines although they did not qualify. Others who had appointments dropped off elderly people hours before their appointments, creating a backup.

Although the Elderly Express Experience model was criticised on social media after videos and images of the elderly sitting and standing in the rain were posted, North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA) CEO Davlin Thomas said the vaccination system had “been set back on track.”

Quick process in Couva

At the Couva District Health Facility, only those with appointments were allowed inside to register. Tents were set up and every hour, ten people were vaccinated. Acting Facility manager Rosalie Jeffrey-Hackett and acting primary care physician Dr Sherry Sant walked around the tents and spoke to the elderly people who waited their turn.

In an interview, Sant said she was satisfied that both vaccine rollouts were running smoothly at the Couva facility.

“We have an appointment schedule of people over 65 who were contacted by the SWRHA to come in for their appointments. The second dose is also being administered. We are accommodating 15 people every hour for second doses,” she said.

Among those receiving jabs was Ramdaye Ramnath, of Mc Bean, Couva.

“Excellent treatment here. I am happy that I got through,” she said.

Dhanmatti Delarosa also said she arrived at 10 am for her vaccine and was seen within 20 minutes.

Yusuff Khan, of Phoenix Park, California, said he felt satisfied with the process.

Earlier in the morning, lines were seen outside the facility but these comprised some people who did not have appointments.

Meanwhile, at the Penal Rock Road Outreach Centre, there was also a smooth flow of people.

Asgarali Mohammed said, “It was not bad. We had to wait for a little until they bring the vaccine but that was it.”

Zorida Mohammed added, “Easy and cool. Very friendly people here. The vaccine was smooth. Excellent service.”

RHA officials pleased

Although there were complaints of people having to wait in the rain at some places, while others who met the age requirement were turned away because their names were not on the lists – the heads of four regional health authorities said, by and large, the Triple E vaccination process was “smooth, exciting and exhilarating.”

Happy to report that over 2,000 first and second dose vaccines had been administered yesterday under the NCRHA’s purview, CEO Davlin Thomas said the VIP treatment meted out to the elderly had been a fun experience for both the patients and attending staff.

He said, “It is always a pleasure to serve the elderly and to ensure their comfort. While they waited, we provided refreshments and had ushers to assist them with the filling of forms, to seating them and seeing to their needs.”

Indicating similar VIP treatment was extended via the Mobile Elderly Express Experience which visited two old-aged homes, he proudly said, “We were able to vaccinate around 80 per cent of the residents at each facility.”

Questioned about those who did not have appointments yet turned up to be vaccinated, Thomas said, “We took their names and contact information to streamline them and get them into the system so they can be given appointments.”

He added, “There are a few who admitted they knew they didn’t have appointments yet were trying a thing.”

He urged people, “to be disciplined and exercise a little patience as things are being done in an organised manner.”

Thomas said those selected to be vaccinated from June 15 were taken from the current database of people who attend chronic disease clinics operated by all the regional health authorities.

Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Northwest Regional Health Authority, Salisha Baksh, also said the rollout ran smoothly.

She said the NWRHA was accommodating both the first and second dose of Sinopharm.

“We are accommodating 10 appointments per hour throughout the day. We want to urge people to come for their appointed time. We are trying to manage the crowds and we don’t want people coming earlier than their appointed time,” Baksh said.

She noted that appointments are based on the existing clinic lists from health centres and hospitals.

“People who meet the criteria who are not a patient at the clinic, can go to the health centre and submit their names. We will call them and schedule an appointment. We have care ambassadors at our facility. We are using members of the Rotary and the Lions Club,” Baksh said.

She added, “Today (yesterday), there was a line of over 100 persons who met that criteria and we took their names and appointments and we called them to give an appointment.”

She too disclosed that care ambassadors had been assigned to help this cadre of first-time patients navigate the system.

Meanwhile, shut-ins and persons residing at two geriatric homes under the NWRHA’s purview were also treated to a similar type of service.

On how this process will continue, Baksh said, “It will be on an appointment basis.”

Echoing the same sentiments as both Thomas and Baksh, Eastern Regional Health Authority (ERHA) CEO Ronald Tsoi-a-Fatt said, “We went fine.”

He said the first and second dose vaccinations went smoothly also, noting that in order to reach those outside of the public health system, they will be “looking to partner with organisations such as the T&T Association of Retired Persons to draw from their database.”

However, Tsoi-a-Fatt said for now, they are operating with this latest system which has been designed to provide an express avenue for the elderly to quickly and comfortably access vaccines.

But the Southwest Regional Health Authority issued an appeal to citizens to wait for appointments before turning up at health centres.

“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,” the authority said in a statement.

“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 & over. This process avoids congregation in breach of the current public health regulations.”

Vaccinations are expected to continue today.