Monday, June 14, 2021
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100 in slum, nearly 4-fold in mall drive-through

EARLY LAST week, a two-day drive-through Covid vaccine camp was held at The Chanakya, a high-end mall in South Delhi. Started by Max Hospital-Saket, it offered Covishield for Rs 1,100, and saw 376 people roll up in their vehicles to get the shot.

Roughly 10 minutes away, at Sanjay Camp in Chanakyapuri, one of Delhi’s largest slums, barely 100 of the 8,000-odd residents have been vaccinated so far, the slum’s pradhan, Ashok Kumar, told The Indian Express.

The two contrasting scenes, around 3 km apart, highlight the gaps in a vaccination strategy skewed towards those with resources and access to private hospitals, drive-through facilities and camps helmed by residents’ associations. More so, with insufficient supply to states stalling the free vaccine programme while doses are available for a price at private hospitals.

Sunday was the sixteenth day of no vaccine doses for the 18-44 category at the Delhi government’s vaccination centres where shots were being administered free of cost. Over the past few weeks, 400 such centres at government schools have been shut down. Last week, another 300-odd centres for the 45-plus category were shut down due to shortage of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin. Covaxin has not been available at government centres for the 18-44 category for almost four weeks now, leading to panic among those who need to get their second shot, and prompting even the Delhi High Court to intervene.

But for those who can pay, there are options. For instance, on Thursday, a drive-through vaccine facility was started at Moolchand Hospital, where Covaxin is being administered for all eligible categories at Rs 1,800 a dose.

Covishield is being sold to private hospitals at Rs 600 a dose, and Covaxin at Rs 1,200 a dose.

“The cost of Covaxin for private hospitals is itself much higher than that of Covishield. And customers will be paying for the smooth experience of being vaccinated in the car itself with their families with all doctors available,” said Vibhu Talwar, a trustee of Moolchand Hospital. On its first day of functioning, between 2 pm and 5 pm, 50 people were vaccinated.

At a two-day camp organised by Fortis Hospital in South Delhi’s Vasant Kunj, 500 people were administered Covaxin for Rs 1,450 a dose. And at a drive-through centre at Dwarka’s Vegas Mall organised by Aakash Healthcare Super Specialty Hospital, around 4,000 people got the shot in the week starting May 26.

At private hospitals, shots are being administered starting at Rs 900, so a family of four would need to spend at least Rs 3,600 on a single dose for each member. This is out of reach for vast sections, particularly when thousands have again been rendered jobless during the current lockdown.

For many who can’t afford a paid shot, the only way out at the moment is if an employer arranges for and sponsors the vaccine. For instance, factory workers and construction workers were among those inoculated at a camp organised by Seetu Kohli Home — an interior design company — with Apollo Hospital for 200 of their employees.

Several domestic workers, drivers and guards were vaccinated by their employers during drives organised by RWAs in plush residential societies. These had primarily been organised in societies in South Delhi, which had tied up with private hospitals.

“Over five days, around 1,700 people were vaccinated in our camp, and around 30-40% who were vaccinated were those employed by residents, and were sponsored by them. Since they don’t know how to register themselves on CoWin or fill up the Google form we had provided for people to provide their details, we had a person in place to help them with this,” said Ruby Makhija, secretary of the Navjivan Vihar RWA. Covishield had been administered at Rs 1,100 per dose at their camp.

Kameshwar Tiwari (41), who works as a driver for a family in Navjivan Vihar, was vaccinated by his employer during a drive there. His wife and two sons were also sponsored by the employer. “I live in the society itself but my family lives in Kirari. There is a centre there but they were not able to get any booking there, so madam got it done for them also,” he said, referring to his employer. But his neighbours and his son’s friends back in Kirari remain unvaccinated.

In many cases, while domestic workers or other staff had got the shot, their families were yet to. A vaccination camp at Santushti Apartment in Vasant Kunj saw some residents paying to get their domestic workers vaccinated. “We had the camp on May 30 and more than 300 people were vaccinated. Roughly 30 were domestic workers and RWA staff. The RWA staff were sponsored using the RWA fund,” said Snehalati Rathi, president of the RWA.

Other upscale neighbourhoods in Delhi where such drives were conducted are Mayfair Garden, Nizamuddin East, Sainik Farms, and blocks in Saket.

These camps are also being conducted in Noida and Gurgaon. The Noida Federation of Apartment Owner Associations, which has around 100 societies under it, started a vast drive on May 30 with tie-ups with several private hospitals. “As of Wednesday, 1,200 people had been vaccinated across 12 societies of which around 5% were domestic workers and maintenance staff,” said Ankit Srivastava, a board member.

Questioning the Central Government’s vaccination policy, AAP MLA Atishi said on Thursday: “This remains a big question that even today, the Delhi government is not being provided vaccines to administer free of cost but private hospitals are receiving vaccines in full swing to administer at expensive rates.”

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