Frustration mounts amid long wait times and limited appointments
Vaccines received last week could be depleted by end of this week, says Symonette
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — More than 700 hopeful vaxxers who were unable to make vaccination appointments waited at Loyola Hall on Gladstone Road for hours yesterday to receive their first jab.
While appointments were limited, the vaccination site continued to accept those with existing appointments and dozens of residents who either walked in or were unable to book via the government’s website, according to Brent Symonette, the St Anne’s MP who was assisting at the vaccination center in the capacity of crowd coordinator.
In an interview with Eyewitness News, Symonette said: “One set of persons are here who have appointments for today. We’re getting them through. I think we’re going to run into about 700 people today. So, those persons go in fairly easily with appointments.
“Some people come out here today who have no appointments. Because there is a shortage of appointments, we have a team here which is making appointments as we go along. We take the senior citizens first, the disabled people and so on and so forth.”
According to Symonette, a small number of people were able to book appointments using a feature known as a “mobile van” reserved for individuals with disabilities.
He said those appointments were not recognized at Loyola Hall, but the vaccination team was seeking to accommodate that grouping as well.
“A number of persons took those appointments — we don’t know how, whether they were told to or whatever, but that is the van that comes to your house,” he said.
“Those appointments are not recognized here because the idea is you [go] to the disabled person’s house.
“Some of those persons have come out here and are naturally upset because they feel their appointment should be here, but it’s the mobile van that should have prompted them to come to their house. We’re trying to help those people.
“…We’re trying to accommodate as many people as we can here today and probably by about 1pm, most of the people will be accommodated.”
According to officials, appointments remain open until Wednesday as the National COVID-19 Vaccine Consultative Committee caps demand with available vaccine supplies.
The Bahamas received 3,496 donated doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from Montserrat and Anguilla last Wednesday, allowing the country’s vaccination program to continue in a limited capacity.
Symonette pointed out that if an estimated 700 doses continue to be administered per day, that supply could be depleted within the week.
The Bahamas is expected to receive a balance of 33,600 AstraZeneca doses from the World Health Organization’s COVAX Facility in the first week of August, Minister of Health Renward Wells said on Friday.
Andrea Darville, who was seeking her first dose yesterday, said she had an appointment for 10am at the Ministry of Health’s “mobile van” on Meeting Street, but when she arrived, she was redirected to Loyola Hall.
She said she drove to Loyola Hall with the assurance her appointment would be honored, but when she arrived at 10.45am, she met a long line of people in the same position.
“I approached Mr Symonette about other persons who have been inconvenienced because we’re now being told that there is a glitch in the system, but regardless, we have appointments set for this day. And we’re told to go online. I’ve since then went online to try and get another appointment and yet, nothing is available.”
Darville said while the government continues to encourage the populous to become vaccinated, challenges with appointments, being redirected and having to endure long wait times are discouraging and could undermine the vaccination drive.
Another woman seeking to get her second jab around 11.45am said she was unable to book an appointment but came to Loyola Hall in hopes of being accommodated.
According to the hopeful vaxxer, who did not wished to be named, she had been waiting for around 30 mins, but was made to understand the wait could be as long as three or four hours, as some had been waiting since 8am.