Food and beverage sector workers pose for a photo with their vaccination cards at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain, after receiving their COVID-19 jabs yesterday.

While corporate Trinidad and Tobago is making strides in vaccinating tens of thousands of people against COVID-19, vaccine hesitancy continues to be a worry.

Over the past week, thousands of people got vaccinated at the Manufacturers Association (TTMA), Supermarket Association (SATT), American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM T&T), Proman and the Couva Point Lisas Chamber of Commerce (CPLCC) sites up to Sunday.

CPLCC president Mukesh Ramsingh said the Chamber began its vaccination programme last Friday at the Nal Ramsingh Auditorium in Couva. It administered approximately 5,000 first doses to Chamber employees, workers of member companies and the public through appointments and walk-ins. From August 7, the CPLCC will administer second doses.

But Ramsingh said there is a need for more people to get vaccinated as there was still too much hesitancy. He said people are relying on information from conspiracy theorists on social media.

“In terms of operations, we went very smoothly. Again, it just comes back to the people not coming out for the vaccines. Some companies that booked 100 persons, maybe 50 per cent actually showed up for the vaccine,” Ramsingh said.

While the CPLCC could vaccinate more people, he acknowledged that there were other locations.

The Supermarket Association (SATT) is close to administering 50,000 doses of the vaccine. SATT director Maria Mohammed-Maharaj said there would be stock taking tomorrow to determine the exact figures for the first and second doses since they started vaccinations on June 8. The SATT vaccinated 13,000 supermarket and pharmacy workers and members of the Diabetes Association with two doses by July 11. SATT vaccinations continue tomorrow and Thursday for people wanting their first dose of the vaccine at the Centre Point Mall in Chaguanas. The SATT will accept walk-ins between 9 am and 4 pm on those days.

Mohammed-Maharaj said there is still some hesitancy among workers in the sector. However, supermarkets that sent some of their staff to the SATT’s first vaccination programme are sending more.

“Some of the same stores and chains are still sending their employees who saw that their colleagues got vaccinated and want to come aboard. But there is still hesitancy among staff,” Mohammed-Maharaj said.

The SATT expanded its programme to include retail, supply, nightclubs, restaurants, bars, food services, religious groups and non-governmental organisations (NGO). Mohammed-Maharaj said a lot of people from NGOs, and retail stores responded.

One retail chain sent 1,500 workers while another, its full complement of staff.

Last week, the American Chamber of Commerce of T&T (AmCham T&T) vaccinated approximately 7000 people with their first doses. AmCham T&T CEO Nirad Tewari said that while some people do not want to take vaccines, it was difficult to determine the level of hesitancy. Tewari said some people were also specific about which brand they would take.

“What I also found is there are people who are coming, who were not sure about the vaccine. They did their reading and now realise that it is better to be vaccinated than unvaccinated,” Tewari said. Like Mohammed-Maharaj, he also saw the confidence some people get with someone they know got vaccinated. Tewari said he saw one of his former primary school teachers volunteering and posted a photograph on social media.

“She told me several people who were hesitant had responded and were now interested in getting the vaccine.”

AmCham T&T will continue to administer first doses for the next two weeks. While there were photographs on social media with empty chairs last week at the National Academy for Performing Arts site, he said people should not mistake efficiency for underutilisation.

He said the process was so quick that there was no gathering of people.

The Manufacturers Association (TTMA) said it has now reached 30,000 people in its vaccination campaign.

In partnership with the Medical Association, SEWA TT International and the National Council of Indian Culture, the TTMA vaccinated workers and the public at eleven mass vaccination sites.

President Tricia Coosal said the TTMA was elated for the continued public-private partnership with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Trade and Industry.