Serpentine queues and waiting periods running into hours is a common scenario at and outside all vaccination centres in Mumbai, where people desperately wait to get vaccine jabs. Many have complained that the BMC should have made arrangement for senior citizens to book online appointment slots.
Many senior citizens feel the procedure has become more cumbersome than earlier. They say the situation was slightly better off almost two months ago when the vaccination drive first kicked off for those over 45 years.
The beginning of the vaccination drive had created a stage for political parties and social activists to earn brownie points which were done by arranging private buses to ferry senior citizens to vaccination centres and back.
These buses were namely arranged to carry senior citizens from different residential colonies across the city and suburbs. A common boarding point was arranged were senior citizens assembled.
“We ensured that there was no over-crowding neither on the road while queuing up nor inside buses. Sufficient buses were arranged for the same,” said Sanjay Jaiswal, an activist from Kandivali who arranged buses for ferrying senior citizens to vaccination centres.
These activists and political party workers would book slots for these senior citizens at these centres. According to Mumbai Bus Malak Sanghatana, they had received bookings for close to 200 odd buses for March and April from different political parties and social activists. Most of these bookings came from areas like Borivali, Kandivali, Mahim, Sion, Matunga, Mulund, Ghatkopar etc. where demand was more.
“We got bus bookings of around 125 buses in April for ferrying senior citizens and others above 45 years to vaccination centres,” said Harsh Kotak, Mumbai Bus Malak Sanghatana.
Back then, according to political workers, it actually helped in catering for people and ensured that those wanting vaccination didn’t wait for long hours. In the past few days, there have been cases where senior citizens have complained about long queues of 4-6 hours and that there is an insufficient arrangement for sitting and drinking water at the centres.
However, the scenario has totally changed since Friday, with the civic body only allowing beneficiaries with online pre-booked appointment slots. In a bid to control overcrowding at the vaccination centres, the BMC on Thursday decided that all potential recipients will have to mandatorily book an appointment on the CoWin app and that no walk-ins would be entertained.
This has triggered concerns and chaos among those who are unable to book online appointment slots.
"I received my first vaccine dose at Nesco, Goregaon through walk-in and I got a vaccine jab within five minutes after I entered the centre. For the second, it took two days for me to book the appointment, booking an appointment slot was so difficult. The tail of the queue at Nanavati Hospital was outside the hospital's entrance, the process was systematic and less chaotic, which was impressive. After completing various levels of waiting and payment etc, it took me two and half hours to finally reach the room where vaccine jabs were being administered. On reaching there I was told that I cannot get vaccine empty stomach and I must go eat something first and sent to the canteen," said Sharmila K, a senior citizen.
Amrut Solanki, a senior citizen and resident of Dahisar said, "I received my first dose on March 18, I and many others from my society were taken to the vaccination centre at Dahisar check naka in a bus arranged by a local NGO. Initially, we were worried thinking it will be crowded and chaotic. But it went on smoothly sans chaos. Now despite pre-booking slots, we had to stand in long queues for hours. Then what is the point in pre-booking appointment slots."
Suresh Kakani, Additional Municipal Commissioner (Health), "The number of beneficiaries has increased, while the stock of vaccine is limited. Hence things will not be quick as they were earlier. The idea of not allowing walk-ins is just to discourage people randomly rushing to the centres, crowding it and leading to chaos. We are constantly working to make the process better and less chaotic.