Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has abruptly closed the vaccination drive for two days informing Mumbaikars that there will be no vaccine centres open on 15th and 16th of May. The uncertainty around getting vaccinated even after following the due diligence (registering on co-win app and getting a slot booked) has left many Mumbaikars feel helpless.
The endless long queues of beneficiaries outside vaccination centres, which includes senior citizens and people with comorbidity, depict the ordeal of common people amid shortage and pandemic looming large.
For Nikhil Mehta from Girgaum, who received the second dose of Covaxin for himself and his wife (with comorbidity), it was an experience he wouldn’t want to revisit. Nikhil was scheduled to get a second dose of Covaxin but he had to make repeated visits to several centres across the city for over a week before getting the final dose at Niar Hospital. “I was due for second dose of Covaxin and got a slot on 30 April but on that day Mr Tope (state health minister) cancelled the vaccination for 3 days…after that I myself physically went to centres looking for it,” Mehta said.
“On Saturday 8th May, 2021, I along with my wife went to Niar Hospital which had a board showing that covaxin available - I waited from 8am to 11:30 am but there was no place for comorbidity patients to sit. After standing for 3 hours there was complete chaos and crowding - it was complete mismanagement. While common people struggle, I’ve heard several stories of how VIPs back back door entry to get a jab,” he adds.
Vinit Jain, a resident of Navi Mumbai’s Panvel says he couldn’t find a slot for his elderly parents in the vicinity and chose to book an appointment for them at a hospital 50-kilometers away from their home. But on reaching the centre they received another shock.
“When I reached the place with my parents after the long travel, I got know that there aren’t any doses available. When I asked BMC officials there and told them I have a slot - they didn’t give any explanation, just said doses are over and informed me I can go and try at JJ Hospital close by, on reaching there I was told they had limited doses and distributed coupons for that early in the day - and they were out of stock now,” Jain said.
Vinit is unable to book a slot for his parents at all - reason being the co-win portal shows both his parents are vaccinated and their certificates are generated- something he tweeted about after the incident. “When I came back to Panvel, I tried to look for evening slots for my parents but I found is their first dose certificate was generated- this after them being denied a jab at the centre. Now the issue is I don’t know how to book a first dose slot for them as they are showing already vaccinated for first dose,” Jain added.
Pankaj Sabnani from Andheri in Mumbai also had a similar experience, Pankaj chose a private hospital for his senior citizen parents and booked a slot for them after some reluctance. However, his parents were denied a jab at a suburban hospital leaving him disappointed and angry. “My parents are above 70 plus, initially I was sceptical about booking a slot for them as centres were crowded and I feared they would contract the virus, but eventually I booked a slot for them at Holy Spirit Hospital, when I took them there after booking an appointment, I was told they had given coupons to people and exhausted all doses - if that’s what you want to do, they why book slots at all. Now, I will wait for the numbers to go down and when I’m sure there are enough vaccines available, I will try for vaccination of my parents”
Looking at the acute shortage of vaccines, The Maharashtra state government has now decided to discontinue vaccination for age group of 18 to 44 and use the doses to vaccinate beneficiaries who’s second dose is pending - while the move will provide relief to senior lot, it’s long road ahead for many others who are patiently waiting for their turn to get vaccinated.