As early as 5 am, hundreds of people crowded health facilities in south Trinidad on Wednesday for the mass covid19 vaccination drive.
This drive targeted people 60 and over with or without non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and people under 60 with NCDs on a walk-in, first-come, first-served basis. However, on social media word was previously spread that anyone could walk in for a shot.
Businessman Shaffeek Karamath, 57, likened the scene at the Ste Madeleine Health Centre to J’Ouvert celebrations.
"The only thing that did not happen was people wining on other people. Some people were jammed up. It was bacchanal. Some people were quarrelling," Karamath said. "We had an orderly line in the beginning. But people started to push their way in the line ahead of others. I was at the front right through, so I wasn’t jamming on anyone."
By midmorning, hundreds of people were trying to get their first dose of the Sinopharm vaccine.
By around 11 am, security guards closed the gates, causing chaos outside.
Karamath, the owner of a roti shop on Coffee Street in San Fernando, blamed both patients and the health system for the chaotic scene.
"Some people weren’t behaving themselves outside.
"On the inside, it seems the staff was under too much pressure. But they were kind. The lady in charge was up and down trying to fight the situation."
He said he intends to encourage his staff to take the covid19 vaccine.
Another man identified only as Darshan from Preysal said he was the 65th person in line, but did not get through.
"I came here 5.45 am. Up to 8 am, the lines were orderly. When someone announced that staff was dealing with about 60-120 people, people in the second line cut into the first line," he said. "There should have been a system to maintain the lines."
He suggested the authority should put tents outside for patients and/or use mobile clinics in schools, which are also used for elections, for the vaccination drive.
Some people complained about foot problems, adding they had no seating.
Of the 14 first-dose facilities in the South-Western Regional Health Authority's area , almost all had reports of long lines from daybreak.
At 9.30 am at the Marabella health centre, 30 people had beenvaccinated.
At Pleasantville Health Centre, 12 people had been vaccinated by 11.30 am.
At La Romaine, 20-year-old Aaron Choy said he came with his grandparents and they all got vaccinated. His reason for getting it was that he hopes to travel abroad.
Up to yesterday afternoon, SWRHA officials had not given a figure for those vaccinated.