Government appeared set to ramp up COVID-19 vaccinations for the elderly by appointment only during the weekend shutdown, after days of frustrating long queues, blamed on many others “jumping the gun” for the jab.
“Wait for a call telling you it’s your turn and giving you an appointment,” the National Vaccination Committee advised the public in a statement released Friday night by the COVID Communications Unit.
Barbados TODAY encountered growing frustration and discomfort among elderly people who waited long hours in the sun for their turn to take the jab today.
“This weekend’s efforts will be concentrated on vaccinating Barbadians over 70 years old who have been given appointments to have the shot,” the committee announced, noting that over-70s account for the majority of the 31 deaths from COVID-19 to date. “The strict appointment system being used this weekend will make for more orderly and comfortable processing and shorter wait times at vaccination centres.”
While frontline workers and over-70 pensioners are currently receiving their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, Barbadians who fit into other categories have overwhelmed vaccination centres, one of the campaign’s officials said Friday.
National Vaccination Co-coordinator Major David Clarke insisted frontline workers and over-70s are being scheduled for vaccines but said many others have been turning up. People between the age of 18 and 69, some of whom have chronic non-communicable diseases, have come declaring that they too have registered online for the jab.
Major Clarke told Barbados TODAY: “So [Saturday], all the vaccination centres will only be doing persons 70 and older, unless it is a particular group that has been scheduled for an appointment. So if you have not been scheduled for an appointment, do not turn up at a vaccination site.
“People have been telling other people when they get their appointment and lots of people have been turning up. There should be no need for people to line up because we are doing an appointment system and if the appointment system works, you should only have ten people at a time waiting to get vaccinated.”
Scores queued up at West Terrace Primary School, St James, and were turned away after waiting for many hours because they had no appointment.
Barbados TODAY understands that doctors are sending their patients to the vaccination centres, now numbering a dozen.
Major Clarke said: “We have an appointment system and people are scheduled for a particular slot for their appointment, but what happened is that people turned up from early this morning because they heard that we were giving out vaccines at West Terrace.
“When I was able to go there, I explained to people that we are only doing 70 years and up and we are doing according to categories. So, the first category was frontline workers, the next category was 70 years and up and the next category is people with chronic non-communicable diseases who are approved by a medical committee from 18 to 69. So, lots of people have been jumping the gun.”
Major Clarke indicated that the registration form for the vaccination clearly states that only people 70 years and older and frontline workers are receiving appointments for vaccination at this time. He said from what has been taking place at vaccination centres, measures were being put in place to prevent people who do not have appointments from joining queues unnecessarily.
From Monday, people with non-communicable diseases between ages 18 to 69 will begin receiving their vaccinations, he said.
From as early as 7 a.m. people from West Terrace, nearby communities and even further away, gathered outside West Terrace Primary for their turn to make their way through the gate.
When Barbados TODAY arrived at the location around midday, many complained that they believed the process should have been better organized to avoid the lengthy wait. Some younger people said they were concerned that the wait was too long for the elderly folks who endured the heat of the sun as they waited. Some sheltered with umbrellas while others found some comfort seated on their own portable chairs.
Keith Beckles, 77, who lives nearby said he first joined the line around 6:45 a.m. but left after some time to head home to have a snack and then returned around 8 a.m. where he found an even longer line. Beckles said he opted to take the vaccine because of his age. But he described the long wait as an unpleasant experience.
“I personally feel that they should have some kind of ticketing system that you could give a person a ticket and they could go and cool out under the trees until it is their turn,” Beckles said. “We have people sitting down in chairs and all kind of things across the road.”
One man suggested that an alphabet system should be introduced to improve the process.
Audrey Hunte-Cox said she was not impressed that the elderly had been standing in line for so many hours in the hot sun. She also suggested that going forward, an alphabet system must be implemented to allow the process to flow effectively.
Another woman who said she suffered from a non-communicable disease, but is under age 70, said she was disappointed that after standing in the line for seven hours, she was turned away because she did not have an appointment.
Avery Marcus, who waited patiently in line to get his dose of the vaccine said he was getting it because his job requires frequent travel. Marcus said he had been waiting for three hours and suggested that the process be started earlier than usual.