DIRECTOR of Health at the North West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA) Dr Anthony Parkinson says the use of the Paddock at the Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain, has been successful as a vaccination distribution site thus far.
Parkinson, speaking with Newsday outside the venue on Tuesday, suggested the rollout would happen faster and more effectively if similar sites are opened, although the smaller vaccination centres were operating smoothly.
He said some 1,300 doses were administered the previous day and this would probably increase by another 1,500 by the end of Tuesday.
"What we initially planned to do was to have vaccinations this week, so we're trying to squeeze them into this week here (as well as) the health centres. They may do about 110 (per day), and they're doing really good if you're getting 110, sometimes 120, people being vaccinated. They're really working hard to get that much. Sometimes they go a little further.
"But the main site is here. We hit about 1,300 yesterday, and that included some walk-ins who were not registered."
There were many vehicles trying to park in the mud outside the Paddock when Newsday visited after Tuesday's heavy rain.
One man said he went to make an appointment at the Paddock but was turned away and told to do so either by phone or WhatsApp.
Parkinson said he was unsure why people were coming there to register, since appointments were not being given at the gates, as the Ministry of Health had said. He said the NWRH previously issued vaccines to some people without appointments but only those in particularly vulnerable groups.
"We in the North West (RHA) have this site, which is our mass site, and we're only taking people who have been booked. We're also taking people who were booked for appointments at the Morvant, Carenage, Diego Martin and Barataria health centres. We are doing everything via registration," he said.
"What we're doing this time around, as the ministry said, is taking people 60 and over with co-morbidities (but also) those without comorbidities.
"We've seen a fair amount of people arriving who were not registered and I must admit, we were (previously) taking people who were not registered – last week especially. For instance – and I have to be careful how I say this – we were taking people over 60 without comorbidities without registration. Because – and it's common sense – they are the most vulnerable. So if they come here, an elderly person lining up out here, I feel it hard, and my CEO and everyone else agrees with that, to keep out people like that."
He said the NWRHA was given strict instructions for Tuesday's vaccine drive.
"We have to take people according to registration, because vaccines aren't running like water any more. We're more restricted with that. We're trying to (encourage) those who are on registration – let's get them vaccinated. So that's what we're doing today especially.
"We have people who want to get in without registration, but have to put the hammer down, or however you want to put it."
He said an appointment is given within two days of a request in most instances.
Asked how the patients generally responded to being given the vaccine, he replied, "Some people, when they come in, they're still nervous like mad and when they get their injection, they're still so nervous. Sometimes they have an anxiety attack and we talk to them, calm them down, and they're okay."
How to make an appointment for the vaccine
A name, phone number and identification number must be provided when asking for an appointment for the vaccine.
The designated numbers for WhatsApp requests are 682-0394, 682-0481, 682-0542, 682-0677, 682-0299 and 682-0308
The direct phone lines are 463-5820, 493-2838, 285-8988 and 285-8933, along with extensions 1166, 1205, 1231 and 1239.