Mon | May 17, 2021

Vaccine lottery

Despite advisory, seniors continue to flock centres in hope of landing jab

Published:Tuesday | March 16, 2021 | 12:19 AMChristopher Serju/Senior Gleaner Writer
Private healthcare workers and the elderly waiting to be vaccinated at the Good Samaritan Inn in Kingston yesterday.
Private healthcare workers and the elderly waiting to be vaccinated at the Good Samaritan Inn in Kingston yesterday.
Public health driver Pietro Campbell from the Winward Road Health Centre receives his COVID-19 jab from public health nurse Lorraine Holt at the Kingston-based health centre yesterday.
Public health driver Pietro Campbell from the Winward Road Health Centre receives his COVID-19 jab from public health nurse Lorraine Holt at the Kingston-based health centre yesterday.
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A flood of senior citizens who turned up for COVID-19 jabs without appointments at The Good Samaritan Inn in Kingston yesterday created a logistical headache for administrators seeking to vaccinate private healthcare workers.

Admitting that they were aware of a ministry directive stressing that healthcare workers and members of the security forces would be the priority groups for the next two weeks, they still turned out despite the slim chance of getting a jab.

The elderly are among the persons at high risk for adverse outcomes if they contract SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19.

A 73-year-old explained that it was her second day on the hunt, having been disappointed when she turned up at the location on Sunday.

“I came down here because I heard about this possibility that when there are leftover vials from the batches, they can’t re-store them and so persons who are here will get the use of those. So I came down here on that basis and I was told that I should come back today,” she said, although admitting that she was not given an appointment and, therefore, had no guarantee.

Haggling for vaccine

A frustrated 69-year-old Marlene Fraser was seen haggling with an unflappable healthcare worker even after she repeated the instructions a number of times.

“If you are not a healthcare worker, if you don’t have an appointment, I don’t want you on the steps. I’m asking you to step down. No, you can’t stay here. Please step down,” she pleaded with three senior citizens, one of whom explained that “is the sun I am running from”.

She then recorded the senior citizens’ names, ages, and addresses, assuring them that they would be contacted via phone, but she could not say when.

“Once you are over 60, I will write your name down and we will give you call. Maybe not today, but your name will be in this book, and we’ll be looking out for you persons. We did some yesterday. We can’t do all every day, but you will soon have elderly time. It’s just that it is healthcare [workers’] time now,” she told them.

The worker then explained that the names of all the healthcare workers who had gathered at the location earlier were recorded in the appointment book and they were to be vaccinated in batches.

“When we came this morning at about 8:15, there was a long line of medical students here and someone came and said to us that they are going to do all the health workers first, and afterwards, they will do the senior citizens and any other person who walk in. Then all a sudden, somebody came out and say they will only be doing healthcare workers. So is pure confusion,” Fraser said.

In May Pen, citizens were also turning up in droves without appointments.

“Persons have been coming in like trouble, wanting to be vaccinated,” said Joseph Grant, manager of the Clarendon Health Department.

However, he said he was bound by the government directive to focus on healthcare workers and the security forces.

“Persons are calling on us that they need to take their vaccine and I am not talking front-line workers. Persons like senior citizens and even the age groups that we are not prioritising, they are asking for the vaccine,” he told The Gleaner.

Commenting on the possibility of side effects, which are listed in the brochure as feeling tired, nausea, enlarged lymph nodes, joint pain or muscle ache, and more recently, concerns in Europe over blood clots, although the link with the vaccine has not been established, Grant said a few persons have reported side effects but no major incident so far.

Cecelia Campbell-Livingston contributed to this story.