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Vaccine surplus appeal successful

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Answering the call: People line up at the Bermuda College Vaccination Centre after an appeal went out to use up a surplus of the Pfizer vaccine. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The island’s two vaccination centres became scenes of “organised chaos” yesterday afternoon after scores of people responded to a plea for residents to get the jab at short notice.

Government issued a public appeal saying it had a surplus of the vaccine that had to be used today. Seniors who had not made an appointment were urged to take advantage of the supply in order to avoid wastage.

Lines quickly formed at the Bermuda College and King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, forcing Government to withdraw the invitation an hour later.

But many of those queuing up without an appointment were under the age of 65.

One 38-year-old man, who asked not to be named, said there was “organised chaos” when he got his shot at KEMH.

He said: “We were at the doctors’ entrance and it seemed pretty quiet, but we went around the corner and there was a massive mob of people standing in front of the other entrance.

“It was really just organised chaos – everybody was waiting, no one was really sure what was going on.”

The man said that he heard about the available vaccines over social media and decided to leave work to get a jab with his wife.

He said that, while people over 65 were prioritised, he understood that anyone was eligible to get vaccinated.

The Paget resident added that when he arrived at KEMH there were hundreds of people waiting.

He said: “The Regiment was organising everything and they were basically saying there were three groups of people – some people who had appointments, some people that were called and I suppose the majority of people who heard it through social media.”

He added: “They said they could take five people in every 15 minutes.

“Maybe 25 minutes later a man came out and said ’bear with us – there’s enough vaccines for everybody, nobody will get short-changed’.”

The man said he and his wife were in line for about two hours – but added that he still counted himself lucky.

He said: “When I came out, a couple of people from my job were still at the other entrance waiting to get in.

“Some said later that they’d waited about four hours before they could get in.”

The doses were given at a first come, first served basis, with RBR soldiers patrolling the sites.

Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, said on Tuesday that there was a “standby list” of people who were contacted to fill cancelled appointments.

She said: “We have a standby list made up of persons that are in the first two phases and may have medical vulnerabilities and the like, and who can get to a vaccination centre within ten minutes.

“The reason we’re saying that is that we certainly don’t want wastage. Once you open a vial you have six hours to use it so if we are at the end of the day and there are persons that did not attend for whatever reason then they will go to that ten-minute list.”

Ms Wilson said that it was not used often because appointments were deliberately overbooked “in anticipation of persons not showing up”.

She added: “But if they have to rely on it, they will certainly call persons up because what we don’t want to do is waste vaccinations.”

A 38-year-old woman, who also asked not to be named, said that she worked face-to-face with other people and went to get the jab because she believed it was open to everyone.

She added: “I was just taking a chance – they said there were vaccines that needed to be used so I figured if they’re going to be going to waste then I’ll take my chances.”

The woman, who had been waiting at Bermuda College in Paget for about 45 minutes in the rain, said that those with appointments went to the front of the line while people over 65 were prioritised.

She added that, while she knew there was a chance that she would not get the vaccine, she was prepared to wait.

The woman said: “They said it’s not a guarantee you’ll get vaccinated and if it’s done, it’s done – they made it very clear.”

She added: “It’s not great weather, but I would love to travel home and see my family, so I would stand if it gives me a chance of getting the vaccine today.”

It is not known how large the surplus of doses was. Questions submitted by The Royal Gazette to the health ministry had not been answered at press time.

Long line: Bermuda College Vaccination Centre (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published March 04, 2021 at 8:30 am (Updated March 04, 2021 at 9:25 am)

Vaccine surplus appeal successful

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