The Shop and Vaccinate initiative by the North West Regional Health Authority began on Saturday at three shopping centres in west Trinidad and will continue next Friday and Saturday.
The Falls at Westmall, Starlite Shopping Plaza, and Long Circular Mall all facilitated the NWRHA at vacant shops in their malls so customers and the general public could get vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccines from 1-6 pm.
At Long Circular, the site is opposite Bluegrass on the ground floor; at Starlite, on the ground floor next to Pita Pit; and at the Falls, the site is in the mezzanine at the eastern end next to Stefano’s.
Dr Antony Parkinson, director of health at the NWRHA, was at Long Circular when the vaccination site opened. He said all the sites had doctors, nurses, a clerk and cleaners to keep surfaces constantly sanitised because “we don’t want to spread anything here.”
He added that an ambulance was stationed at the mall in case anyone needed assistance but it would serve all three sites.
Parkinson said he was pleasantly surprised to find people waiting for the space to open to be vaccinated and the NWRHA would remain at the site every Friday and Saturday until the Ministry of Health said otherwise.
“We hope to get people who are on the borderline, that they would see it and pass in to get one jab and done. If we could get people vaccinated and block the delta variant from spreading in TT, that would be fantastic.”
Reports indicated that all three sites had a steady flow of people for the first few hours but the numbers slowed down significantly soon after.
Darlene Easton, the manager at Starlite Shopping Plaza, said the NWRHA approached George Aboud and Sons Ltd about facilitating the drive so the RHA was given a space free of charge.
The vacant store, separated into waiting, screening, vaccination and observation areas, is on the ground floor to facilitate the elderly and disabled people.
“George Aboud and Sons Ltd, who owns Starlite Shopping Plaza, recognise the need for vaccination in order for our country to reopen and for our economy to start recovering. As a corporate citizen, when we were approached, we were very happy to be able to facilitate them and help in any way we could.”
Jennice Price, marketing manger at The Falls at Westmall, said since the start of the pandemic the company has taken customer and tenant safety seriously by constantly maintaining a clean and safe environment so people could shop comfortably. Facilitating the NWRHA was another step in that direction.
“We agreed because of corporate social responsibility. We are in a pandemic and whatever we can do to help, obviously we’ll be there to help for sure.”
Leslie Grennum, marketing manager at Long Circular, said its parent company, Home Construction Ltd, had been involved in corporate social responsibility over the years and found giving up a space for people to be vaccinated was a perfect opportunity to give back to the community.
For that reason, the company also allowed a vaccination site at Trincity Mall, opposite KFC under the cinema, in the northern wing on the ground floor.
“We wanted to do this as part of our corporate social responsibility. It’s something the management and marketing team felt it necessary to have to make the mall an easily accessible place for people to come and get vaccinated.”
Many of the people being vaccinated at Long Circular knew about the site in advance, while others took the opportunity to stop and get vaccinated while they were shopping.
Sports photographer Allan Crane told Sunday Newsday he was aware of the initiative and went specifically to be vaccinated. He said he believed it was important for the majority of the population to be vaccinated and he trusted the science behind the vaccines.
Asked why now, he said he was waiting on the Johnson & Johnson brand, since it was one of those widely accepted to travel abroad.
Adesia Orie got vaccinated because she lived with two people who were high-risk and she wanted to do her part to ensure they were protected, “especially as the delta variant is affecting younger people.”
She said she always wanted to get any brand of covid19 vaccine but she was vaccinated for something else in July and had to wait two months before she could take a covid19 vaccine. Her two months was finished on Friday so she decided to get vaccinated immediately.
Justin Wortman was a business owner who had to get vaccinated to travel.
“I came here today to get vaccinated because, as a business owner and somebody who works for a living, you have no choice. They made it so you have absolutely no choice but to get vaccinated or else you will not be able to prosper.
“They are making it mandatory to where, if you want to go to a restaurant or do anything, they’re going to ask if you’re vaccinated so us as citizens feel as if we have no moral rights.”
Sarah Mahabir said she did not like needles, which was why she chose to get the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine.
“I was hesitant about getting vaccinated because at the end of the day there are plenty side effects with all. So last night I spent a few hours researching the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The good outweighs the bad, so it was a yes for me.”