Express Daily Filler

As the clock struck 5 a.m. to signal the end of the daily curfew, hundreds of people began showing up at all the facilities under the North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA) for their first shot of Sinopharm vaccines.

The day ended in disappointment and chaos. Here’s a snapshot of the situation yesterday at various health centres:

St Joseph Enhanced Health Centre

Hundreds of people were lined up outside the health centre on the compound of the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope, and onto the Priority Bus Route.

When the health centre gates opened at 8 a.m. people were given numbers and told to continue to wait outside until their numbers were called.

But there were also not enough numbers to be distributed to everyone waiting to be vaccinated.

Hundreds of people were told to return today to try again. And many people with numbers were told to return at noon to be vaccinated.

This then caused angry mobs to break out from the lines. People began shouting, cursing and at that point, little social distancing was observed.

A 73-year-old man who told the Express he arrived at 5.30 a.m. was given number 100, and was told to return at lunch-time.

Hundreds who came after him were turned away. At 12.15 p.m. he eventually got his vaccine. When asked how he felt after receiving the Sinopharm vaccine, he said, “I feel like a tiger!”

However, at lunch-time, after Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh announced a change in the procedure to receive the Sinopharm vaccine from the walk-in, first-come, first-served basis to people over 60 being vaccinated in alphabetical order from today, healthcare workers returned to the gates and took back all the numbers from person waiting hours in line.

Many elderly people told the Express that they felt they were being treated unfairly as many of them had comorbidities and started feeling sick after waiting for hours in line.

As people began arguing with the staff, healthcare workers returned to the gate and distributed the numbers again. They then announced to the crowds that only 250 people would be vaccinated.

One healthcare worker announced, “We were just made aware that the criteria for tomorrow (today) has changed so what we are advising is that people follow what is being said on the press conferences. People who are here waiting with numbers can continue to wait, you will be facilitated. But from tomorrow (Thursday) we are doing surnames from A to E. So even persons who would have given their information today and told to come back tomorrow, if your surname does not fall into that category, you will not be vaccinated.” She also admitted that the staff was overwhelmed by the number of people who showed up for vaccines. At that point, people continued to protest outside the health centre. Another man over age 70, Holly Thomas told the Express, “We are not leaving here until we get our vaccine. We do not care what time it is. We have been waiting here since after 5 this morning. If we do not get our vaccine today, we will be shaking down that gate.”

One elderly woman told the Express, “My husband and I are elderly people and we both have type two diabetes. We have not eaten anything and we are here since before six this morning. We have medication to take. We didn’t even have breakfast. It’s unfair to have old people out here so long.”

Another elderly woman said, “My number is 208. I’m here since after 5 this morning. And it’s after 12 now. What time will we get through? This system definitely not working. They needed to do something better for old people.”

Arima distract health facility

The first woman to arrive, 65-year-old resident of Malabar, Kathleen De Verteuil said, “I came this morning at four minutes past five for the vaccine. I was the first person and about six o’clock hundreds of people lined up. There was no control, totally out of control. The nurses trying their best to get the crowds under control but it’s not working. They saying social distance but the people not social distancing.”

The Express observed healthcare workers repeatedly shouting ‘social distance’ but people responded that it was impossible to do so as the lines bent around the entrance of the hospital to the roadway and the more people that arrived to be vaccinated, the harder it was to distinguish the order in which people came. To add to their frustrations, a nurse announced that since the walk-ins had no order, they would be allowing persons with appointments only to be vaccinated first, then only the first 100 walk-ins would be vaccinated.

This left hundreds of elderly people who were already waiting for hours and in the rain disappointed.

De Verteuil eventually got her vaccine at 11 a.m. after many people were allowed in before her. However, hundreds were not as lucky, despite showing up before 6 a.m.

La Horquetta

Hundreds of people filled the streets of La Horquetta as the health centre was too small to accommodate all of the walk-ins that arrived to be vaccinated yesterday.

And healthcare workers said they received even fewer doses of the vaccine than Arima District health facility.

However, one of the first 100 persons who got vaccinated, a 70-year-old woman of Phase 7, La Horquetta, said. “I reach here half past five and was given number 52. I only got through at 11 a.m. It was very slow but you know you want to get the vaccine so you have to wait. I’m not feeling any pain right now. After I got the vaccine I had to stay for 30 minutes to be monitored.”

Arouca Health Centre

People lined up outside the health centre on George Street onto Golden Grove Road, causing a lot of traffic.

The extremely long lines of people were also left frustrated as the health centre did not begin vaccinating people until 10 a.m. However, many were told to return at 1 p.m. since traditional clinic began at 8 a.m. for outpatients.

Security officers posted at the health centre also struggled to maintain social distancing and order amongst the crowd.

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