Coronavirus | Free-for-all at vaccination centres in Kerala

People wait for their turn at a COVID-19 vaccination centre in Thiruvananthapuram on March 7, 2021.   | Photo Credit: S. Mahinsha

A mad scramble among people to secure the COVID-19 vaccine at the earliest, and a lack of coordination between the Health Department and the district administration, threatens to derail the vaccination process and create vaccine shortage in Kerala.

The Health Department had earlier announced that the vaccination process would be streamlined by fixing the number of vaccinations per site and by limiting spot registrations and online appointments. The districts were asked to start mass vaccination points so that the task of vaccinating 3.3 lakh poll officials could be completed on a priority basis.

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However, on Sunday, with vaccination centres becoming a free-for-all, even people who did not belong to eligible categories and those who had secured online appointments for a later date rushed to get the vaccine.

In the capital district, the vaccination process was limited to just the Jimmy George indoor stadium, where on-the-spot vaccination was arranged for the elderly, poll officials, and those in the 45-59 age group with co-morbidities.

By mid-morning, it was clear that things were totally out of the control of the Health Department, as many government officials, even those who were not assigned to poll duty, some with family members and friends, walked in for vaccination.

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Messages spreading like wild fire across social media that one could “walk in to Jimmy George stadium, get vaccinated first and registration later”, only made matters worse.

“If everyone was to be allowed to take vaccine at their will and wish, why fix the criteria at all? Already we have had to limit the vaccine supply to private hospitals to 100 doses on Sunday. With the district administration taking over the show, the Health Department has no role in the mess,” a senior Health official said.

Many private hospitals, already seeking additional supply, would get replenished only when the next lot arrived on March 9, he added.

“We do not have the capacity to vaccinate 40-50 lakh people in a week. People should be patient. None will be left out,” he said.

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District Collector Navjot Khosa, however, denied that ineligible people were allowed to be vaccinated or that the district could face vaccine shortage. Yet, there is a palpable fear that the supply shortage felt in Thiruvananthapuram could trigger such a trend in other districts as well.

A Health Department official from Kozhikode said a shortage had been felt in the district. Some Health Department staff kept aside tokens for their kith and kin.

In Ernakulam, the dose shortage threatened to hamper vaccination sessions on Monday. Fresh allotments could not be made to private hospitals with supply being awaited, said Sivadas M.G., Reproductive and Child Health Officer and nodal officer for vaccination in the district.

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The district would be able to administer around 20,000 doses over the next two days before the recent supply of 59,000 doses dried up, he said.

Around 12,500 doses were administered on Saturday, and 10,500 people took the shot on Friday. Supply was still very short of the growing demand, said T.V. Ravi, president of the IMA Cochin Chapter. According to a doctor at the Ernakulam General Hospital, only 200 doses were made available daily.

But over 200 people arrived at the hospital for vaccination. Some of them had to be asked to return later.

(With inputs from Kozhikode and Kochi bureaus)

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Printable version | Apr 19, 2021 1:30:09 AM |

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