Mumbai: It was time to take my 83-year old mother for her second coronavirus vaccine. Private hospitals, including the one where she had received her first shot, have had no stock for days. CoWIN indicated that no appointments were available at any centre – private or public - in our area for the next week. I was advised by friends to try my luck with walk-in appointments at the nearest open BMC vaccine centre, which happened to be near Kalidas Natyamandir, Mulund West.
Knowing that scenes at the otherwise organised centres have been unpredictable lately, a relative offered to queue up early on my mother’s behalf. When he arrived there at 6 am, a number of people had already lined up. Tokens were being given out; his read ‘No. 22’. My mother, who lives near me, and I prepared to leave for the centre.
My mother has stepped out exactly once since March 2020 – to get her first vaccine shot in March 2021. She has been drained by the constantly changing information about the virus, the ever-increasing sanitation precautions and now, the news of the destruction wrecked by the second wave. Even her daily routine has intruders - every night I take her garbage out and hang the bags to collect milk and newspapers outside her door. We descend outside her door the moment any vendor turns up, shooing her indoors while we deal with them. She has to video call her friends, her vegetables are limp after they have been sanitised by us and if any of us steps out for shopping, we stay away from her house for a week. I feel terrible to bar her this way as she is very active and social. But she is the only parent I have left.
I asked her to double-mask for her second outing, and she spent some time following the instructional video I sent her. She donned the surgical mask first and then another cloth mask, convinced that what I had told her was not new made-up stuff.
We joined the long queue, which was orderly and socially distanced. Some senior citizens were squatting on the pavement with newspapers to shield themselves from the summer sun. Some carried water bottles and sipped from it intermittently.
As we stood with the relative waiting for the centre to open at 9 am, I kept telling her that we were lucky she was going to get her second vaccine shot given that there is acute shortage of vaccine.
Around 8.40 am, a crowd started gathering outside the gate. An official had stepped out from the centre and people started jostling to get nearer to him. Apparently, all understanding of protocol is pushed aside when one is waiting for the Holy Grail aka vaccine and hope in the form of a uniformed official appears. I saw people talking to him and then look at each other in a defeated manner. Giving strict instructions to my mother to not move from where she stood, I went closer and was told that vaccine would not be given to anyone in the queue. The official pointed at a placard he had just hung up that said only those who stood in the queue yesterday and did not get the vaccination would be given vaccination today.
If that was the case, why did they not inform all the seniors when tokens were being handed out at 7 am? Reaching out to sources in the BMC, I was told that even they do not know how much stock they will receive each day.
We will just have to turn up with the token we have in hand, and try our luck again tomorrow.