Dr Ian Sammy, head of the Accident and Emergency Department, Scarborough General Hospital, says he experienced chills – a common side effect – for two nights after taking the Oxford-AstraZeneca covid19 vaccine on Saturday.
Sammy was among a group of 34 frontline health workers who received the first doses of the vaccine in Tobago. The vaccines were among 2,000 doses which were donated to TT by Barbados.
In an interview with Newsday on Tuesday, Sammy said, "On the first night I think I had a low-grade fever and I definitely had chills. I felt very cold. I had bouts of shivering and my muscles hurt. That settled down by next morning, though I was left a little bit tired. It happened the second night but not as severe. Since then I was fine. I was back to work Monday and today."
Sammy, 59, said it was not a difficult decision to get vaccinated although he has a fear of needles.
"The nurse that gave me my injection was extremely gentle. I'm afraid of needles, but it was fine. For me, it was not (a hard decision) because I am in one of the high-risk groups. I have high blood pressure, and because of my job I have been on the frontline. I have been following the science and it was clear that taking the vaccine would reduce my personal risk of getting covid, and if I did get covid it would be less severe."
He added, "Also because I am on the frontline and watching what is happening worldwide, it seems the vaccine is reducing the spread. It was not a particularly difficult decision."
Sammy praised the nurses for being extremely professional in administering the vaccines.
"It was very good. The only thing that was off-putting was all the press. Doing that thing in public was a bit disconcerting, but it went very smoothly. It was extremely well organised.
Secretary of Health Tracy Davidson-Celestine told Newsday on Tuesday, “From those persons who have accessed the vaccines there has, so far, been no significant side effects.”
Davidson-Celestine said the division’s education awareness campaign is ongoing.
“We continue to encourage persons to see the vaccines as one of the measures that can help us to return to a normal state of operations,” she said.
A doctor for over three decades, Sammy said coping with the pandemic in the last year was tough.
"It's been very challenging, but I think it's been challenging for everyone throughout the country. It's a very contagious virus and we've had to implement some very strict measures to try to curtail the spread. Those measures are amplified in the hospital because we have to be so careful, but we have to see our patients. I am very proud of my staff. They understood what needed to be done, the risk it posed to themselves, yet they stepped up and did their job very well.
"Now it is a year, we've learnt as we've went along and we have a system to deal with suspected cases. Within our department, we've had no cases of spread."
With Tobago registering no cases of the virus for over three weeks, Sammy praised the health sector on the island.
"I am satisfied with the response from the TRHA and the secretary for health and we are always very cautious. We are quietly celebrating the 19 days, but we know we must be vigilant."