Healthcare workers, uniformed officers, everyone 60 and over, and caregivers accompanying the elderly are eligible for the vaccine.
Miriam Emmanuel, 64, proudly sported her “I got the COVID-19 vaccine” sticker as she walked towards her vehicle yesterday.
Emmanuel, not to be confused with the MICAL MP, said she has underlying conditions that put her at a higher risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms, and said being stuck at home for the past year was becoming overbearing.
“I have pre-existing conditions, and I feel like for me to be comfortable and to move about freely, the best thing to do is be vaccinated,” she said.
“I am not listening to all the talks on social media,” she said.
“People have their own opinions. I listen to science, the professionals.”
Emmanuel said she is encouraging everyone to get vaccinated.
“I encourage those persons who have doubts to just take the doubts out of their minds and just come down and be vaccinated because it can save lives,” she said.
She added, “One of my friends was supposed to come this morning but her daughter discouraged her. But once I get home, I’m going to call her and I’ll let her know it’s nothing to be afraid of.”
Scores of people were inside Loyola Hall in various stages of the process when The Guardian walked through.
People with appointments waited in chairs just inside the hall before proceeding to the registration room, then to the stations where the vaccines were administered, and finally to a holding room, where they were observed for 15 minutes before being allowed to leave.
By midday yesterday, the queue had extended out the doors of the hall, where more than a dozen people were awaiting entry into the building.
St. Anne’s MP Brent Symonette, who was volunteering with Rotary to help manage the registration process, apologized to those waiting, explaining that there was a small backlog at the time.
Symonette, who was taking temperatures at the entrance and ushering people in, said he took the vaccine himself a few days ago and has been fine since then.
Many Bahamians have expressed skepticism over the vaccine. With only 20,000 doses in the country, the rollout was initially limited to frontline workers. But the government quickly expanded rollout to the elderly only days after it began due to the low turnout.
Chief Superintendent of Police Matthew Edgecombe, 55, said he believes getting vaccinated is the wise thing to do.
“Listening to all the persons talk about it and the doctors, that’s the wise thing to do, to get vaccinated,” Edgecombe said as he walked towards his vehicle.
“And I work in an area, law enforcement, and we come into contact with a lot of persons. So far, so good. I haven’t gotten the virus. I encourage all my colleagues to come out and get [the vaccine]. I told my office staff to come out and get it.”
Edgecombe said he believes more officers will get vaccinated.
“The officers are lining up,” he said.
“They want to get it.
“…They know it’s wise and they know it’s the right thing to do.”
He added, “I don’t see the big risk in it. I see a risk in not doing it.”
Senior Nursing Officer Sherry Armbrister said she has noticed an increase in the turnout of healthcare workers this week.
Asked if it was disappointing that more healthcare workers haven’t shown up for the vaccine, Armbrister said, “Yes, it is. But we have also seen an increase in our healthcare workers coming to get their vaccinations.”
Armbrister said they have been vaccinating more than 500 people a day.
John Turnquest, 73, said he got vaccinated because he wants to keep living his life.
“I love life,” he said.
“I love living and I want to be sure that whatever is good for me to keep me that way [I do it].”
“I don’t see why people wouldn’t want to take it, but you know I’m looking out for me.”
Turnquest said the process was smooth and efficient.
“I sat down and was waiting for them to give me the shot, and I said, ‘When are you going to start?’ And she said, ‘Well you’re finished,’” he said.
Wellington Davis, a petty officer in the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, was among those waiting in the holding area following his jab.
“I did a lot of study on it, a lot of reading,” he said, reflecting on his decision to get vaccinated.
“My sister is a nurse and she kept me up-to-date and I just came out and took it.”
While he admitted he was nervous, Davis said the process was smooth and fast, and he said he felt “great” afterward.
“Come out and roll your sleeves up and take it,” he said.
Deidre Woods, 70, said she is looking forward to being able to return to a more normal life.
“I feel liberated,” she said.
“I am pleased because now I can live a normal life instead of being in a bullpen.”
Woods added, “I couldn’t eat in a restaurant. I liked taking my grandchildren out to eat and taking them out places and there was nowhere to go. I got tired of that. So, I decided to get the vaccine when the Indians gave it to us. I trust the Indians.”
Woods said she believes widespread vaccine hesitancy in The Bahamas is due to misinformation.
“[People] need to recognize that it’s for their health,” she said.
“We took vaccines when we were young. We had to take vaccines to go to school. I am a world traveler. I’ve been all over the world, and many countries I went to, I had to be vaccinated to go. You couldn’t go without the vaccinations. So, I’m used to vaccines.”
Joseph Lewis, 66, had been waiting anxiously to be able to get the vaccine.
“One of the things I said to my family was that as soon as it was introduced to The Bahamas, I wanted to be second in line,” he said.
“I heard the prime minister say he was going to be the first, so I wanted to be number two.”
Jodie Lewis, his daughter, who is a health worker, said she wanted to get the vaccine as soon as she could to protect her family.
“I live in a house filled with high-risk people,” she said.
“So, I wanted to make sure that we were all able to get the vaccine so that we don’t end up having any issues down the line.”
She added, “I had no fears. I just wanted to take it. I know that other people have taken it.”
Dr. Michael Gerassimos, 89, said he was “feeling great” as he walked out of Loyola Hall yesterday.
“It was fine,” he said.
“[The nurse] had sweet hands, as one of my patients put it some time ago.”
His caretaker, Jacqueline Deryckere, also received her first dose of the vaccine yesterday.
“I feel more confident,” she said.
“I feel a bit more protected.”