Members of the public wait in line at the Arima Health Facility hoping to get the COVID-19 Vaccine, yesterday.

Bavita Gopaulchan

It was chaos and confusion outside vaccination sites across the country yesterday as thousands rushed for their COVID-19 jab.

Yesterday marked day-one of the Ministry of Health’s revised vaccination rollout plan for people over the age of 60 or people under the age of 60 with non-communicable diseases.

When Guardian Media visited the Diego Martin Health Centre yesterday, the line wrapped around several corners. There were some like Hashim Badal, 56, who have been in line from as early as 5.30 am.

“When I come it probably had about 150 people waiting already,” Badal told Guardian Media.

“I asthmatic and I don’t even know if I will get through today”, he lamented.

Dale Abraham, a Diego Martin resident, said, “The ministry’s message was not clear to the public which is the reason you have over 1,500 people lined up”.

Eventually, a health centre staff member addressed the crowd.

“I am here to give out only 100 numbers so anybody after that I am kindly asking to return tomorrow. I will not even suggest tomorrow. If you have no co morbidities, the best time to come is when all this die down which could be next week,” she told them.

Within minutes of her announcement, whatever little distance there was among the hundreds gathered, was quickly abandoned as they rushed to collect their ticket numbers. Only a few opted to obey the instructions of the staff to space out.

Some were even accused of breaking the line.

One woman was heard shouting, “Hello! You were supposed to be in the back!”

Once numbers were distributed, those without were instructed to return at a later date.

There was also an overwhelming response for vaccines in Arima.

Mayor Cagney Casimire told Guardian Media he was really happy with the level of vaccine acceptance among burgesses.

However, he said he was forced to call a meeting with health officers to ensure the vaccination drive did not turn into a super spreader event.

“We know once we had an overwhelming response it would have put a strain on the resources, we have in Arima and that is why we came down here to ensure that the people who wanted to be vaccinated get vaccinated,” Casimire said.

The line outside the Chaguanas Health Centre stretched pass several buildings.

Some people, under 60-years, were blanked and were told to return with a doctor’s letter confirming their underlying health condition.

It was a similar scene at vaccine sites in south Trinidad.

The crowds, reported in areas such as Diego Martin, Carenage, Chaguanas, Ste Madeline, La Horquetta, and Arima, were eventually dispersed by police officers following instructions from Police Commissioner Gary Griffith.

The commissioner, in a media release, indicated that he met with Health officials yesterday to ensure that a better system is put in place for the vaccine rollout in the future.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh has since apologised to the public saying they underestimated how many people would show up to be inoculated.