Yesterday’s unseemly sight of thousands of citizens lining up for hours, often with no social distancing and many unable to access COVID-19 vaccines, was another debacle in what has not been a very smooth vaccine rollout.
Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh has offered the nation an unreserved apology and accepted that the Government did not anticipate such a response.
While this apology is a step in the right direction, it still does not solve the central issue of what appears to be a lack of sufficient thought to the process and clarity of messaging by the Ministry of Health in the vaccine rollout programme.
How could the Minister appear to be surprised by the high rates of vaccine acceptance, especially since citizens have seen over five hundred of their compatriots die at the hands of the COVID-19 virus and do not want to become a statistic of this deadly disease?
More than that, with the Government stepping up its messaging and urging individuals to take the first vaccine available, it is not surprising that there is significant interest in the jabs.
It appears at least naive, if not disingenuous, that the Minister of Health, who has consistently boasted about the number of people being inoculated against COVID-19 and who was at the recent mass vaccination of stakeholders, did not realise that citizens are in fact anxious to Vaccinate and Operate to exit this pandemic.
The revelation that the ministry will now be doing a rolling programme that will allow for people whose surnames begin with specific letters to access their vaccines on specific days, shows that this rollout is happening on the fly.
This approach appears to have been taken without thinking through all the implications. What happens to the elderly or people with comorbidities, who must be on the road trying to get a vaccine with no guarantee they will get through on a specific day. Is there no better way to get this done?
The other part of this story is the risk that yesterday’s event could lead to some people paying the ultimate price, that of getting COVID-19 and losing their lives because the Ministry of Health did not think through its walk-in vaccination plan.
We hope that yesterday’s debacle will not lead to more pain and suffering for those who tried to access the vaccines.
It is heartbreaking to see how our elderly have had to struggle as they try to protect their lives. We must do better as a country and a society.
This media house is on record as commending the Government for securing sufficient vaccines to reach herd immunity and to be sure, all mass vaccination programmes have been fraught with challenges, but challenges are different to that of putting the very citizens’ lives at risk by encouraging a potential super-spreader event.
T&T can do better! This is not us at our best!