Despite the inclement weather yesterday, before 10 am some 100 children were already vaccinated at the MIC Pleasantville Technology Centre in San Fernando.
“It did not hurt at all, it just felt like a little ants bite,” declared Presentation College student Victor Baboolal, who was among the first to get the Pfizer jab.
Baboolal said he felt accomplished having received his first jab of the vaccine. He said he got up as early as 4 am and was “not really scared” about getting vaccinated.
Yesterday was the first day of the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education’s vaccination rollout for children between the ages of 12 and 18 years old.
The vaccines are being offered at 14 sites across the country via an appointment system.
South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) CEO Dr Brian Armour gave the first-day rollout a thumb’s up and also indicated that they will consider calls for additional sites once they have the resources.
Michelle Parson, who took her three children to get the vaccine, said, “I considered it very important to bring my children to be vaccinated against COVID-19 virus.”
Another parent, Stacey Ryan, who arrived at the facility around 6.30 am with her son, complained that there was no area to shelter from the rain.
“When we got there, they had a long line. It was wrapping around the facility to the outside, but the rain came down very heavy and there was absolutely no accommodation for the persons standing in the rain. It was even flooding.”
She added, “The only issue we had would have been having to stand in the rain for 45 minutes to an hour before being able to access the facility. Outside of that, when you got in the process was pretty smooth. The staff, they were very friendly.”
She suggested that they put in place a holding bay so that people would have somewhere to shelter.
Ryan said she felt the Southern Academy for Performing Arts (SAPA) was a more suitable site for the vaccination drive, as there is parking and more space.
“So I understand trying to get the process effected, but this was not the wisest choice for a vaccination centre because as you can see, parents are coming out in numbers to get their children vaccinated,” she added.
Ryan said there should also have been an additional site in South, since there is only one site in San Fernando and another in La Brea.
Parent Adrian Agard of Corinth Hills, Ste Madeleine, was happy that his daughter got her first dose. Agard said when the rain came they waited in their car until it eased up.
However, he found that the staff was professional and there were no bumps or hiccups.
Armour said they experienced a smooth start and had already received commendations. With regards to the complaints about the site, he reminded the public that the SWRHA is managing regular services, COVID parallel facilities, plus mass vaccination sites at SAPA and Powergen.
“This site would have gone through all the quality assurance checks prior, so it has met the requirement to provide the essential service which is vaccines.”
Armour said the rollout was carded to begin at 8 am but they began processing people at 7.05 am and the first vaccine was given at 7.50 am. Noting that the SWRHA is very satisfied with the MIC partnership and the site, he added, “We would always like to open up to meet the needs but we are constrained with the finite nature of our resources right now. For example, this site requires partnership from the Ministry of Education in terms of providing volunteers or pledging volunteers in terms of the administrative at the MIC facilities and our own resources, so therefore there is a finite limit of resources.”
Addressing calls for additional sites, he explained that this would require more partnership, as they would need trained volunteers.
“So we are taking overtures from any member, persons who want to volunteer and certainly yes, we would contemplate to look at seeing if we could open more sites, it may not be for the full duration but we are certainly looking at it based on what the public has told us,” he added.
Explaining that volunteers would need to have quality assurance training, Armour said, “So this vaccine, compared to the others, requires some training, not much but we require the training. So we are just putting out an appeal based on the concerns of the publick, if persons want to come forward, we are happy to take their name as a pledge of support and we will work with them and see if that is enough to consider more sites.”
Reminding the public that they could go to any site, he noted that at the start of the rollout a lot of people usually turn out eager to get vaccinated but after four to five days the eagerness teeters.
Police were present ensuring compliance with the public health regulations.