WHILE the numbers dwindled significantly, the disappointment remained high at the Chaguanas District Health Centre where only 50 Covid-19 vaccines were administered yesterday.
As with other area clinics around the country, the Chaguanas facility turned away dozens of people over the age of 60 who were hopeful of receiving a first dose of the Sinopharm vaccine.
However, attendants informed members of the public as they gathered, from as early as 5.30 a.m., that only 50 people would get their jab as the clinic was also obligated to carry out regular services including the vaccinations of babies — and wanted to avoid clustering as space was limited.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh yesterday told Power 102 FM that the number of vaccines to be administered daily was settled at 50 in order to accommodate the other services that the health centres are responsible for.
The letdown for many followed Wednesday’s chaos at health centres around Trinidad and Tobago, when hundreds converged had on the various locations on the launch of Government’s walk-in system for people over 60 years and for those under 60, with chronic diseases.
The walk-in process was intended to simplify access to vaccination for those two vulnerable groups but instead caused chaos at health centres and for the Ministry of Health, as images emerged from early morning of impossibly long lines and heavy crowds without physical distancing.
Most were the elderly but large numbers of people outside the target groups had shown up as well, hoping to be accommodated.
Prior to the launch of the walk-in system, Government received huge flak for its call-in appointment system, which generated hundreds of complaints daily that calls and messages to the provided numbers were going unanswered.
‘This makes no sense’
The fiasco forced Deyalsingh to apologise to the nation at that morning’s virtual Covid-19 news conference. He then announced an alphabetical system that started at health centres yesterday, taking first those over the age of 60 whose surnames began with letters from A to E. The Ministry has dropped the other target group for now — those under 60 years with non-communicable diseases - to make the numbers manageable, Deyalsingh said on Wednesday.
Today is supposed to see the administration of vaccines to persons over 60 with surnames from F to J and a representative at the Chaguanas Health Centre said yesterday the alphabet will be repeated for those who missed their turn at this round.
The Express was told that the actual number of people seeking vaccines yesterday was around 100 and they gathered from as early as 5.30 a.m.
The first 50 were given numbers by 7 a.m. and divided into two groups of 25 each, with the first group seen at 1 p.m. and the second at 3 p.m.
An orderly process was underway when the Express revisited the clinic around 1 p.m., with those who had received numbers being politely guided by the centre’s staff. They sat in chairs in a tent opposite the Galt Street, Montrose facility, with physical distancing in place and several types of attendants present.
While those who received their numbers and vaccine were grateful and high in praise for the staff at Chaguanas, those turned away were bitter.
“Why tell people to come today? This makes no sense at all,” one frustrated Charlieville resident said.
“What happened to the system they said they would do, where they were calling clinic patients? Just do that then because nearly everybody here is in the clinic,” the resident said.
One 65-year-old man who was not an outpatient of the clinic said he was grateful for the vaccine, although he did not suffer any NCDs that he was aware of.
Speaking to Power 102 FM, the Health Minister said the decision to distribute 50 vaccines per clinic was taken after talks with the chief executive officers in charge of the respective facilities.
“The CEOs who are in charge of the health centres wanted to be comfortable with an amount across the board, so that the other services in the health centres could continue...like child guidance, your NCD clinic, your mental health clinic and so on,” Deyalsingh said.
He added: “So the CEOs and officials at the Ministry of Health felt that at this stage, 50 was a comfortable number, bearing in mind that very soon, we are going to have to start administering second doses of Sinopharm.”
The Health Minister said officials also “didn’t want to have what happened yesterday with the congregation....we wanted to make sure we had proper social distancing and all the reports this morning was that what occurred yesterday, is not replicating itself this morning”.
He said officials had spoken to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) and added: “So it’s a balancing act.”
Asked whether these talks had been held with the CEOs of the health centres before Wednesday’s walk-in launch, regarding the capacity at the various facilities, Deyalsingh said:
“What happened yesterday (Wednesday) was that we asked people over 60 regardless and people with NCDs, under 60.
What happened was that a lot of people who didn’t qualify, who were not eligible, turned up. So, we had to make the decision to bring some order to the situation and to treat the vulnerable, which is over 60, regardless of your NCD status, to make sure you got first bite at the cherry, as we have been doing from day one.”
He went on to note that such people were the ones becoming very ill when infected with Covid-19 and were the ones to “really succumb” and require intensive and high dependency hospital care.