An offficial call names on the list for appointments to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at SAPA, yesterday.

Rishard Khan

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Scores of people showed up at the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts (SAPA) to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine yesterday.

Chief executive officer of the South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA), Brian Armour told Guardian Media during a visit yesterday that within the first hour and a half, at least 100 people were inoculated.

The site is the third and most recent mass vaccination site in the country. It began service yesterday.

“We want to do roughly 120 to 150 doses an hour so that is our target,” he said.

“We’re looking for 800 to 1,000 vaccines per day at this site.”

Amour described the site as an asset to the regional health authority which he said serves roughly 40 per cent of the population.

The government’s initial vaccination plan was to withhold half the doses in the country’s stockpile to use as the second shot for those already inoculated. However, the drastic surge in COVID-19 cases coming out of the Easter weekend and the discovery of the Brazilian SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern (P1) circulating within the population prompted the government to reverse the decision.

“I have today agreed with the Ministry of Health – the holding in our hands now our 38,000 doses of vaccines that we’re holding, in the event that no more were coming to us in the very near future and that would have been used to be the second dose, on those persons who were vaccinated – we have taken a decision today that we will use those vaccines as first dose application for persons who are to be vaccinated,” Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced last Thursday in Tobago.

Speaking with Guardian Media, some citizens at SAPA expressed disappointment with the process. Several people said they had issues with the appointment system.

“This system no good, they give you WhatsApp number and none of the numbers working,” one elderly Gulf View resident said.

However, when asked about this Amour said that they have tripled the number of people manning the lines.

He advised people to only send a Whatsapp message to one of the numbers listed to avoid lengthening the administrative process.

He said this results in staff now needing to search for duplicate appointments.