FOR the third consecutive day, scores of senior citizens across south Trinidad were frustrated as they spent hours lined up at various health facilities waiting for the covid19 vaccine, but with little to no communication from officials.
On Wednesday, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh announced a new, alphabetical order system for those over 60 to receive their first jab.
He had said, "(From Thursday), we are only going to be handling persons over 60 with surnames starting from A-E (who) will get into our health centres. On Friday, we going to do F-J and then we will communicate with the public (and)so on and so on."
But on Thursday, only after spending hours in lines, people were told only 50 doses were being administered at each of the 36 centres, so some were told to go back home and return on Friday.
When Newsday visited the La Romaine Health Centre on Friday morning, there were over 100 people lined up, some standing, some on chairs and others sitting on the pavement.
There were two police officers observing.
The first man in the line, Garth Gibbons, said he got there around 5.05 am, but up to 8 am, no official had come outside to tell those waiting how the process would work.
Several of those in line said they had not eaten breakfast, but were willing to wait as long as they could because they wish to be vaccinated.
Savitree Beekha, 63, and her husband Vishnu Beekha, 67, had also visited the centre on Wednesday and Thursday, but were unsuccessful.
"After the walk-in on Wednesday, we waited a very, very long time (up to) after 10 am and they tell us we have to leave because they're only giving 100 doses.
"After that, we came back yesterday (Thursday), they said A-E and our name is B...
"Someone from the health centre came and took back our (designated) numbers from us. I had number 66 and they said they're only giving 40 people and we had to leave."
Vishnu told Newsday the alphabetical system had sounded like a good idea but after seeing what happened on day one, he knew the chaos would continue.
He said having people gather in such high numbers defeated the purpose of what the ministry was trying to achieve.
Ramdath Jokhan, 64, told Newsday a lot of people came, saw the line and left to either return home or to go to a different facility.
Police had to speak sternly to at least two men who arrived around 8 am and wanted to go to the front of the line because their surnames begin with F. They questioned what was the purpose of an alphabetical order system if it was also first come, first served.
The officer asked one of the men, "So you want me to move this man who come here at 5.15 am and put you in front of people when you now come here? And because your surname is F, I should move him?"
The officer then apparently made a phone call to a senior officer, saying, "It looking like it going and have problems here."
At the Point Fortin Health Centre, there was a long line at 6 am and the first person there had been waiting since 5 am. She had tried to get the vaccine on Wednesday as well, but was unsuccessful.
One elderly man in the line fell as his knees gave out from standing for so long.
But some in the line told Newsday they were there for their second dose of the vaccine.
At the Marabella Health Centre, the first man in line was David Gopaul, who arrived at 5 am, and there were around 73 people in total waiting.
At the Ste Madeleine Health Centre, the line was even longer than on Thursday. The first woman in line had arrived at 5 am. It was her second day attempting to get the vaccine, among several others.
A good Samaritan was distributing chairs and sanitiser free of charge to those in line, as he said he did not wish to see senior citizens standing for such a long time.
He did the same at the Gasparillo, Marabella and Ste Madeleine health facilities.