Seniors put to hardships at vaccination sites

The COVID-19 vaccination of the elderly and those between 45-59 years with co-morbidities is posing major human resources and logistic issues for the Health Department, while at the same time putting senior citizens to much hardships.

Ever though the vaccination was formally opened for senior citizens and those with co-morbidities on March 1, because of the glitches in the software and sluggish traffic in the CoWIN portal, senior citizens have been queuing up at public hospitals for spot or walk-in registrations since day one.

With those who managed to get vaccination slots also turning up at hospitals and demanding vaccination, major vaccination sites such as General Hospitals have been witnessing unprecedented crowding and incessant squabbles.

Many senior citizens, who had come to the site after securing online vaccination slots, had to wait for long in queues along with those waiting for spot registration, only to be told that they will be issued tokens for vaccination on another day.

This has been creating unpleasant scenes between senior citizens and health officials, the latter expressing their helplessness about the situation.

โ€œThe main problem was that the CoWIN portal was issuing unlimited registrations per site per day, whereas we cannot handle more than a maximum of 200 vaccinations a day for general public. We are also doing vaccinations for healthcare workers, poll officials, and senior bureaucrats and Ministers. Though there are many peripheral institutions also where vaccination is available, the portal does not seem to be displaying those sites,โ€ a senior health official at GH said.

โ€œSince March 1, we have had a huge backlog of people, who could not be vaccinated despite getting an online appointment and who had to be issued tokens. We have now decided to cancel the registration process till next Wednesday, so that we can streamline the pending bookings. Those who managed to schedule an appointment on Thursday will not get the vaccination before March 10,โ€ he said.

He said the hospital staff had been working overtime to ease the vaccination process but they were are up against a huge backlog of data entry work also, which often could not be completed before midnight.

At Peroorkada District Hospital here, the scene was more manageable, though here too, even those who had come after getting an appointment for vaccination were sent away with tokens.

The Health Departmentโ€™s appeals to the people to wait patiently and that the vaccination process will be smooth once more vaccination sites, including private hospitals, can be opened up in the next one week, seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

โ€œPeople seem to be in a tearing hurry to get themselves vaccinated and perhaps they fear that vaccine stocks may run out. But we have plenty of stock and more will be arriving soon. Right now, we have no idea how many registrations the system has generated per site and this needs to be streamlined. There is a total communication breakdown at many levels, which is creating this confusion,โ€ an official said.

The Health Department is hard-pressed also because they are simultaneously handling the administration of the second dose of vaccine to health workers, completion of the first dose to front-line workers, and the mammoth task of delivering both doses of vaccine to poll officials in the next one month.

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