For the 18 to 45-year-olds left out of the vaccination process, India’s phase 3 of the vaccination drive has brought hope, however shortages in vaccines is not making things easy
Even as the Covid crisis deepens in the country, Delhi is seeing colossally high daily positive cases (20,394 on 1 May) and a grim rise in the death rate (407 reported for 1 May). Now, with 301 centres opened up in 36 schools for the next phase of the vaccination drive, according to Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, people are vying for slots to receive the jab.
According to data by the Ministry of health and family welfare, Delhi has consumed 34,59,458 doses including a wastage of 3.96% till now.
But one can see that the opening up of the phase 3 for the younger age group is already seeing many takers with over 26 lakh (26,13,232) doses being administered in the last 24 hours as on 3 May (7am) in Delhi itself. Compared to that, the recipients of the second dose of the vaccine were only 7,11,690 in the same time frame.
Around 1.5 crore people are targeted to be vaccinated in Delhi, of which 32 lakh have received at least one dose so far. According to news reports, the Delhi government is taking the help of the voters’ list to ascertain the number of eligible beneficiaries. It puts into account around 60 lakh people aged above 45 years.
Taking that into consideration, and central ministry data, which puts the population of Delhi as on 1 October, 2020 at 2.04 crores (2,04,14,000) there are then at least 1.4 crore of 18-45-year-olds to be vaccinated in the city. A huge feat, which the Delhi government says it wants to finish in three months.
Arpit Shivhare, a 25-year-old working in a government agency will be one of those getting vaccinated soon. He says he is desperate to get vaccinated, seeing as this is the only way to be safe from Covid. While reluctant before, when the months of January and February had shown positive cases in the triple digit (even till 22 March which were 888 positive cases in 24 hours) now, his thoughts on the vaccine and even his colleagues are quite different he admits, “you are seeing people dying every day. There is no other option but to get vaccinated.”
The CoWin app where one has to register for the vaccination opened on April 28 for phase 3. The government said more than 1.3 crore Indians successfully registered themselves the day registrations began.
“I got myself registered on the 30 and started looking for slots, but there were none available”, Shivhare says, going on to tell us how he finally managed this task.
“When I checked again the next day, in the morning, all the slots were gone. I finally got one later at Park hospital on 1 May itself. I chose 3-6 pm and got a confirmation text and everything. But I was sceptical so I looked up their number and called them up. As soon as I mentioned the words Covid vaccination, I was told ‘vaccines nahi aayi hain’ (vaccines haven’t come yet) and then he hung up”.
Shivhare believed he would have no luck until the next month as the CoWin app showed no slots were available for the entire month of May. But this situation changes every hour, he says. The next day he was successful in booking himself for vaccination at Atal Adarsh Vidyalaya for May 4.
But the story isn’t the same for everyone; some have actually registered and easily found a spot open, even though it’s a week after getting on the app. Shubham, a communications manager tells us that after registration on May 1, he found a slot for himself, his brother and sister-in-law who are in their early 30s, for a week later on May 8 at BKL hospital in Pusa Road.
What resonates with the people we spoke is the understanding that this vaccine will come to the rescue, even as virus load increases (92,290 active cases in Delhi) and healthcare collapses with no beds, no ICUs, no oxygen.
Shubham points out that people may suggest immunity boosters, but they are not going to help, “It’s very important to get this vaccine because there’s literally no other substitute to protect ourselves from the virus, besides masking of course. Science saves the day and all these immunity boosters are of no use. Vaccine is the only truth today”.
But in a tweet while Sisodia shared plans to establish 3,000 centres in 300 schools, he added a catch – “subjected to the availability of vaccines’. Vaccines are scarce and the Delhi government has placed orders for 1.34 crore vaccine doses with 67 lakh doses of Covishield vaccine with the first tranche of three lakh doses scheduled to reach Delhi in the first week of May.
But Adar Poonawalla, whose Serum Institute is manufacturing the vaccine has already said that shortage of vaccines will continue into July. And this shortage is being felt by people as they try to book slots for vaccination.
With more people shunning any reluctance to take the vaccine – seeing the destruction that Covid is causing in people’s lives – the reality is the lack of doses will continue.
Arushi (name changed) says she jumped on the chance to get vaccinated, getting registered on April 28 – the same day the government opened up bookings for the age slot. But since then, and not getting any open slots, she has debated whether to wait to get vaccinated as vaccines like Moderna and Pfizer – both unavailable here – showing efficacy of 6 months, the latter perhaps a little longer.
“If we have to get vaccinated every 6 months and I’m anyway spending my time at home…maybe it is better to delay. But then the only intelligent thing is to get vaccinated. (So) I think I will get vaccinated as soon as I get a slot.”
But slots are still unavailable close to her Ghaziabad home and “The last I checked all slots were booked till 30 May”. But like Shivhare told us, Arushi too says the key is to keep checking the app, with more government centres opening, more slots become available. “There are so many people of our age that it’s going to be difficult. The tip is to look at the website about 10 times daily and you’ll find one.”
And when slots are available, it’s the question of which vaccine to take. With Covishield getting some bad press around its blood clot side-effects, which have even resulted in Denmark banning it, Arushi would want Covaxin. It’s a vaccine produced by Bharat Biotech.
“Fortis has Covaxin and I want that. They have it in Noida and Shalimar Bagh so I am checking every few hours as to when it becomes available, I was getting May 15-16 but it was Covishield so I didn’t want to take it.”
But as Business Standard had reported, Bharat Biotech which is the maker of Covaxin is facing a shortage of a key component to its vaccine. So while some may choose which one to take, for many and perhaps later even for Arushi, it just becomes a matter of getting any vaccine available. Protect oneself in a city, which is unable to contain the barrage of critical Covid cases.