The Most Vulnerable Unable To Access COVID Vaccines

City Health

Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had filed a petition in the Bombay High Court to allow door to door vaccinations. However, the petition was rejected leaving many without access to the vaccination.

Mumbai: Shikha Banerjee, a 78-year-old resident of Mumbai had to call her son from Kolkata to Mumbai just to help her get vaccinated. “There are no wheelchair facilities in the centres and no one to drive me. How could I go alone?” she asked. Due to the unavailability of a ramp, her son had to pick her wheelchair up and take her to the centre to get the COVID-19 vaccine. “The government said we are the most vulnerable population, but they haven’t made the system accessible to us,” she said.

However, Mrs Banerjee is not the only person who is facing these challenges. Specially abled, elderly and bedridden patients are struggling to get the COVID-19 vaccination in Mumbai.

The elderly and specially-abled are finding it hard to travel to the vaccination centres and stand in the long queues. Most senior citizens have comorbidities and require the COVID-19 vaccination at the earliest.

Dr Madhushri N., a doctor working with COVID-19 patients said that many people think that since the elderly are not going out, they can delay the vaccine. “Most people think the elders are not going out so they are not vulnerable. However, the elders are the one who needs it the most,” she said. She also added that the virus can be transmitted if even if one is in home isolation. “It can come from home deliveries, or even from your neighbours. So, it is important that the elderly are vaccinated at the earliest,” she said.

The Centre for Holistic Development, an NGO working on accessibilities of COVID vaccinations listed 132 vaccination centres in Mumbai. However, only two of them have disabled and elderly-friendly facilities.

The  Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had filed a petition in the Bombay High Court to allow a door to door vaccinations. The petition claims that over 15 lakh people are unable to get vaccinated due to lack of accessibility. However, the state government rejected the idea citing challenges in maintaining COVID protocols and observation of the beneficiary for 30 minutes after vaccination. They also said that the efficacy of the vaccine will decrease and there will be a vaccine shortage.

The BMC has now started two drive-in clinics, wherein the specially-abled and the elderly can sit in their cars and get vaccinated. Kiran Dighavkar, Assistant Commissioner, BMC said that the drive-in clinics are helping. “We are giving the vaccine in the car and registering them in the car itself. We have kept these strictly for the specially-abled and senior citizens since there was a demand for home vaccination,” he said

Sunil Aledia, the founder and CEO of Centre for Holistic Development said that the drive-ins will only help a little, as the beneficiaries will still need people to drive them to these facilities. “There should be a pickup and drop facility for people who are immobile,” he said.

He further added that the government can map the number of immobile people in an area and set up vaccination camps for them. Experts said that the government needs to revamp its vaccination strategy to make sure everyone has access to it.


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