Members of the public are seen walking into University Inn and Conference Center, Circular Road, St, Augustine, during their vaccination drive yesterday.

Of the 6,000 Sinopharm vaccines that were allocated to the University of West Indies, St Augustine Campus by the Ministry of Health (MOH) – approximately 5,000 people comprising staff, students, alumni and their family members have received their first jab against the COVID-19 virus.

Confirming this around 5 pm yesterday, UWI’s Deputy Principal Professor Indar Ramnarine, who was the Chair of the Vaccination Drive Committee on the Campus, said, “At this time, exact figures are not available for the breakdown of the category of persons receiving but on the four days that required appointments, we were able to vaccinate around 1,000 persons a day.”

Besides these 6,000 first doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, UWI previously received an allocation of 900 AstraZeneca vaccines which were used to vaccinate clinical students, with the extra doses in that allocation being made available to members of staff.

The five-day vaccination drive which was conducted during the period July 19 to 23, saw staff and students being invited to book appointments, and this was subsequently expanded to include their family members and the UWI alumni.

Ramnarine said, “We also vaccinated other members of our UWI community inclusive of suppliers and concessionaires and students and staff from the Arthur Lok Jack Global School of Business, UWI-ROYTEC, COSTAATT, UTT, Hugh Wooding Law School, UWI Open Campus, and UWI students from Mona (Jamaica) and Cave Hill (Barbados) who are currently in Trinidad. Those appointments were booked quickly.”

He explained, “Our approach to appointments was to allow each day to be booked before allowing a subsequent day to be opened. All these appointments went quickly.”

Taking a decision to extend the initiative to members of the surrounding communities as they wanted to utilize the full vaccine allocation, Ramnarine said, “As part of our responsibility to our immediate community in St Augustine, Tunapuna and Curepe, we saw it fit to make vaccinations available.”

Yesterday was the official day for walk-ins and according to Ramnarine, the mass vaccination centre at the University Inn and Conference Centre opened at 9 am but the closing time of 2 pm had to be extended to 5 pm due to the overwhelming response by the public.

He said, “Overall, we are a pro-vaccine community at UWI.”

“On the staff side, we have many who were already able to receive their jabs via the national vaccination drive. We also have a significant community of staff healthcare workers under the Faculty of Medical Sciences who were also accommodated prior to our drive. On the student side, the uptake was high. Overall, the timing of our drive coincided with many other drives taking place nationally. So, staff and students have options closer to home within their communities.”

UWI has a student population of approximately 15,000; with a staff population of 2,500 – of which 800 are academic, senior administrative and other professionals.

Ramnarine said UWI had increased public education campaigns as to the benefits of vaccination and throughout this pandemic, had hosted several staff forums and sessions with students to specifically answer any questions they may have had.

He indicated, “We have had positive responses as all those sessions were well attended and certainly the response to this week’s drive has been positive.”

Regarding plans to reopen in September, he revealed, “We are currently refining our plans for September, in keeping with the guidance that has been provided by the Ministry of Education.”

“The Prime Minister declared recently that we need to “vaccinate to operate” and certainly we have heeded that call and have been playing our part in promoting the safety and efficacy of vaccination.”

He concluded by assuring, “It is our intention however to continue to be guided by policy in looking to the resumption of in-person operations when a national decision has been taken regarding schools.”