Overcrowding causing concern at vaccination sites, health officials urge public to follow instructions given on site

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Just days into the start of the national vaccination programme, health officials are pleased with the turnout at the established vaccination sites.

However, according to a number of residents, the system was riddled with disorganisation. 

The programme was officially rolled out on Monday, with residents who registered to get Covid-19 vaccines starting to receive them at four sites across Antigua.

First-person reports, video recordings and social media comments reaching Observer showed chaotic scenes at some of the sites.

Two persons who visited the Sir Novelle Richards Academy and the Villa Polyclinic respectively, said there did not seem to be much organisation in outside areas.

“Social distancing was very, very challenging,” Jason Holowhak told Observer. “People were saying in the lines that if I didn’t have Covid I got it now, because it was just so many people there and nobody was really there taking control of the situation.”

Similar sentiments were shared by Petra Williams who said, “There was no one really outside giving directions or guidance or instructions. I think the challenge was that the numbering system didn’t start early, so when it did start, it was chaotic.”

Additionally, some residents took to social media, complaining that they had to wait approximately five hours to receive the shot.

They explained, however, that things did seem to be moving much more smoothly once inside the vaccination sites.

In response to the reports, residents gearing up to get a jab are being urged to follow the instructions given by staff at the various vaccination sites.

“We are appealing to persons to follow the prompts of the persons at the vaccination sites when they direct you to sit or stand in particular areas, because they are working to ensure that social distancing is adhered to,” said Dr Janelle Charles-Williams, Chair of the Public Education Sub-Committee on the Covid-19 vaccine.

Dr Charles-Williams believes that anxiety could be the reason many people are coming in to get vaccinated, and are disobeying the instructions being given.

“Based on initially entering the vaccination site, people are anxious to get the process over and done with. We are delighted that the numbers are good in terms of people coming out… but sometimes in the first instance, in the first part of the day, people are anxious and are not following the prompts of the agents at the vaccination site,” she remarked.

Dr Charles-Williams also assured that everyone who is interested in getting a Covid-19 vaccine will have the opportunity, reiterating that there is no need for a rush.

“Please do not be over anxious; everybody who comes to the site will be attended to. I was personally at one of the vaccination sites down at Multipurpose Centre and the nurses were there until after 5 vaccinating to ensure that all the individuals who would have presented themselves by 3.30 yesterday were vaccinated.

“Nobody is being turned away. There is no need to rush, and everybody interested in getting the vaccine will receive it,” she added.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Sir Molwyn Joseph said that the first two days of Covid-19 vaccinations have proven that each vaccination site can potentially inoculate 500 people on a daily basis.

If that goal is achieved, it would be a major step towards the Health Ministry’s objective of vaccinating 80,000 people in 35 days.

Earlier on Monday, approximately 1,300 people were reportedly vaccinated across the four centres.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Ministry disclosed that the site at the Novelle Richards Academy vaccinated the highest number of people on day two, with 620 individuals.

Additionally, more than 300 persons were vaccinated at the Port Authority.

Those figures contributed to the combined total of approximately 2,000 people that received a jab on Tuesday.

Yesterday was dedicated to vaccinating persons 65 years and older.

The Health Ministry’s public vaccination drive started on Monday and included four established vaccination sites: Villa Polyclinic, the Glanvilles Polyclinic, the Multipurpose Cultural and Exhibition Centre, and the Sir Novelle Richards Academy.

Head of Marketing and Communications at Mount St John’s Medical Centre, Salma Crump, in a passionate plea, is encouraging residents to go out and get inoculated.

Crump said, “The arrival of vaccines, although good news, does not signal an immediate end to our nation’s suffering. Just as we have been pushing for adoption of the precautions that we all know work – masking, hand hygiene and physical distancing – we must also push for high rates of vaccination within the country if we hope to overcome this virus.

“We are very proud to be among the first to receive this vaccine – and in our example, help to promote public confidence in the safety of the vaccine. We encourage everyone to take the vaccine when it becomes available to them.

“Vaccines in a vial don’t save lives – vaccinations do,” she added.

Visit www.vaccineantiguabarbuda.com to register for the jab, or call 788-8299 or 736-8298.

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