Mumbai: COVID-19 vaccine shortage
continues to be sore point; five days to go before universal rollout
BL Soni/ FPJ Photo

There were long queues of beneficiaries outside government and civic-run vaccination centres on Monday morning, with people having to wait at least three to four hours for their turn and having to return disappointed after that long wait. According to the vaccine list of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, 31 of the 98 active Covid vaccine centres were currently administering both Covaxin and Covishield.

However, many were turned away from Jamshedji Jeejeebhoy (JJ), Bombay Hospital and others, being told there was no Covaxin stock, despite the civic body list showing it as being available for a second dose. In five days from now, the immunisation drive is scheduled to be thrown open to all adults.

Suraj Pandey, a Dahisar resident said his parents had taken Covaxin for their first shot at the BKC Jumbo Centre on March 22 and were due for their second one on April 19. But they decided to delay their visit by two days due to shortage of vaccines, only to find that the situation had not improved and to their horror, at the Dahisar Jumbo vaccine centre, there were more than 1,000 people ahead of them in the queue.

“We thought taking a second dose would be easy but the ground scenario is totally different. BMC had said priority would be given to those coming for the second dose but there were thousands of beneficiaries who were waiting for their turn to get the vaccine. There is no proper arrangement for the beneficiaries – we were standing in a queue right by the Western Express Highway, which was itself scary,” he said.

Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani said the burden on government vaccination centres had increased as stock shortage had forced the closing down of many other designated centres and many private hospitals too had stopped administering vaccines for the same reason. “There was a shortage of vaccines for the last one week, but now, we have received stock. Many beneficiaries who were turned away are now visiting the centres. Also, there is a rush to get vaccinated before May 1,” he said.

Another beneficiary, Sandeep Solanki from Kandivli said he had called at least 10 vaccine centres on Monday morning where both Covishield and Covaxin were available, only to be told at all centres that there was no Covaxin. “When there is no Covaxin available, why has the BMC has mentioned it on their list? I am a high blood pressure patient and my spouse is a kidney patient. We have both taken our first dose, but are not getting the second one. We went to several centres, but it is not available,” he said.

Another senior citizen, Rahul Mehta, said the civic body should provide details online or prior information should be given so that people are not put to unnecessary trouble. “My mother is 86 years old. I went to various centres but vaccines were not available. Despite registering ourselves, we are unable to get vaccinated. How many centres must I visit, taking my aged mother along with me, in the current situation?” he asked, distressed.

A senior doctor in charge of the vaccine centre at JJ Hospital said they had received limited stocks of Covishield and Covaxin was completely out of stock. Accordingly, only those registered beneficiaries who want Covishield are allowed and the rest are being asked to return the following day. “We have been asked to give vaccines to registered beneficiaries only, as there is only limited stock available. However, beneficiaries coming for the second dose have been asked to enquire whether Covaxin is available or not,” he said.

Dr Gautam Bhansali, consultant physician, Bombay Hospital, said they only had Covishield in stock, that too, only for registered beneficiaries and not walk-ins. However, no Covaxin stock had been received in the last few days. “There is a long queue of beneficiaries at each centre as now, everyone is willing to take a vaccine and this has resulted in a chaotic situation,” he said.

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