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regular-article-logo Friday, 14 June 2024

Covid: Pre-dawn queues grow longer at vaccination centres

Many elderly people have to wait under the merciless sun to take the jabs

Subhajoy Roy Calcutta Published 21.05.21, 01:26 AM
A long queue for Covid-19 vaccines outside RG Kar hospital on Thursday morning.

A long queue for Covid-19 vaccines outside RG Kar hospital on Thursday morning. Gautam Bose

A guard outside the vaccination centre at the RG Kar Medical College and Hospital told a man who had gone there on Wednesday to enquire about the second dose of Covaxin that recipients had been queuing up since 4am daily.

Across the city, long queues since early morning have been a feature at vaccination centres for weeks. Even after the exclusion of Covishield recipients — because of the extension of the gap between the two doses of the vaccine to 12 to 16 weeks — the queues have not become any shorter.

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Rajat Roy, a resident of Dum Dum, joined the queue at RG Kar hospital at 7.30am on Thursday. Already, there were around 45 people ahead of him. His vaccination was done around noon.

Apart from standing in the queue for long, Roy had to walk 40 minutes to the hospital and another 40 minutes back home because no transport was available. “Given the scarcity of doses, I preferred to stand in the queue and take it,” he said.

Many elderly people have to wait under the merciless sun to take the jabs. Physical distancing norms are hardly followed in queues at most vaccination centres, triggering apprehensions among many that they would contract Covid while waiting for the jab.

“If someone in front of or behind me is infected and we stand so close for four to five hours, very likely I will be exposed to the virus,” said a man who stood in the queue at RG Kar hospital on Thursday.

People queuing up since dawn has become a daily phenomenon, especially since the beginning of May when private hospitals stopped giving jabs and a sense of fear grew among many that they would not get vaccines.

An official at a private hospital that had always given time slots to vaccine recipients said government-run vaccination centres could also try allotting such slots.

Some of the suggestions that emerged while talking to officials of government-run and private vaccination centres and recipients:

⚫ Give tokens with time slots in advance so people do not have to queue up since early in the morning.

⚫ Government vaccination centres learn at night how many doses they will get the next morning. They must inform people in the queue how many doses will be administered on a given day and tell the rest not to waste their time tanding in the queue.

⚫ Strengthen and widen the WhatsApp chatbot system that the Calcutta Municipal Corporation has introduced. Though it is said to have initially suffered from a glitch, many people benefited from it. The snags, if any, should be fixed and more vaccination centres must be brought within the ambit of the chatbox.

⚫ Open more vaccination centres so queues do not get too long.

“We are advising the vaccination centres to adopt innovative ways so that people do not have to stand in queues for long. They can give tokens and allot time slots. The queues are primarily happening because people are anxious they would not be able to get vaccinated later,” said Nayaran Swaroop Nigam, the secretary of the state health department.

The state government has tagged government-run vaccination centres where people who had taken their first dose at private hospitals can take their second. If government centres can split time between second dose recipients from the private hospitals and other recipients, overcrowding can be avoided.

Sudipta Mitra, the chief executive officer of Peerless Hospital, said officials from the hospital visited the government-run centre tagged to their unit.

“We had requested officials at the centre to give second-dose time slots to those who had taken their first shot at our hospital, but they said they could not do so,” he said.

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