PHOTOS COURTESY REVAN TEELUCKSINGH Volunteers execute a successful vaccination drive at the Divali Nagar site in Central Trinidad earlier this month.

Patriotism and selflessness.

These were the attributes displayed by over 150 volunteers who vaccinated 10,700 people during the “Vaccinate to Operate” mass vaccination drives.

Authorized by the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Trade and Industry, the successful mass vaccination was executed by the T&T Manufacturers Association, the T&T Medical Association and SEWA TT International.

The volunteers, 40 of whom are medical doctors, rolled out the vaccines within 72 hours, this month.

Speaking to Guardian Media, Sewa TT’s president Revan Teelucksingh said it was proper preparation and dedication which ensured success.

“I want to thank our volunteers. It is not easy staying in protective gear for 12 hours. The vaccination drive usually lasts from 7 am to 7 pm, yet we have these volunteers stepping forward and engaging in this effort at great risk to themselves and their families,” he said.

Teelucksingh explained that because of the COVID-19 crisis, the volunteers recognized vaccinations were the only way to restore normalcy in T&T.

“Dr Vishi Beharry and I have been preparing for mass vaccinations since December last year. We both worked out plans for a drive-through and walk-in vaccination. We tested the site and knew what the capacity would have been,” he explained.

He noted that dentists and veterinary doctors as well as medical doctors and their assistants were involved in the exercise.

“They have all been coming out without asking for anything in return. After working long shifts in the hospitals on evenings and weekends, they came out because they recognise that we are all part of the Trinbago society and this is them doing their part to get T&T out of a crisis,” he added.

He also lauded the TTMA for organizing chairs, tables, vaccinations stations, washing bays, and personal protective equipment within 24-hours.

Teelucksingh said two more rounds of mass vaccinations will take place on Thursday and next Saturday with 5,000 more vaccines being administered.

“The TTMA provided all the gear and they were able to do this on a Saturday within 24 hours,” he added. he also lauded the National Council of Indian Culture for providing the Divali Nagar site rent-free.

Meanwhile, the president of the NCIC Deokinand Sharma said he was looking forward to having another successful vaccination drive.

He said the NCIC was willing to offer the site for further vaccination drives.

Sharma said while the government had the right approach for vaccinations, the sites where it is being done were too small and cramped.

“There is a need for large accommodation of people, proper parking where people could shelter in case of rain and hot sun so yes, we are willing to assist in whatever way we can with our site as we have been doing,” Sharma said. 

He said the last vaccination drive was done in an orderly manner and people did not have to wait hours to get vaccinated.

President of the TTMA Tricia Coosal told Guardian Media said apart from the volunteers, the TTMA received donations of ambulance services, cleaning and sanitizing products, personal protective equipment and directional signage needed for vaccination sites. 

“I did get a chance to speak to many volunteers during our hectic days at the vaccination drives and many believe the only way out of this pandemic is through vaccination of the nation. It is with this in mind that many of our volunteers are driven to give of their time to be a part of Trinidad & Tobago returning to normal life,” Coosal said.

While financial resources are always a challenge, however to date we have received generous donations from some of our TTMA members, this funding will assist in the fixed cost of each vaccination drive. Some of these items are the rental of chairs, tables, tents and ambulance services, all of which are mandatory for vaccination sites. 

The organizers say they will continue to help in the Ministry’s vaccination programme.

Reporter: RADHICA DE SILVA