With only 83 BMC centres open, people travel to far off areas to get vaccinated

With a dip in the demand for vaccination against Covid-19, the BMC has reduced the number of vaccination centres to 83 from 290 in January.

However, with a slight rise in inoculation rate after booster shots were made free-of-cost from July 15, beneficiaries from Mumbai are now having to travel longer to get the jab. Although, unlike earlier, the waiting period at vaccination centres has come down, with more people turning up for vaccination, the wards are witnessing a shortage of vaccines.

Khalid Salim Tagala (28), a resident of Dahisar, had to travel all the way to BMC-run Bhagwati Hospital in Borivali to get his third shot of Covishield on Monday. He complained that all the vaccination centres in Dahisar have been closed down. “There is no way to check which vaccination centres are functional. I checked on the CoWIN app… it showed only 21 centres and none of them were in Dahisar,” he said.

Like Tagala, many in the 18-59 age group, who had delayed their paid booster shots, are flocking to vaccination centres to take their free shots under the 75-day Covid Amrit Mahotsav programme.

While in the first two weeks in July, the city was recording a daily vaccination rate as low as 6,000, it is now hovering around 9,000-12,000 per day. The result being that more people are now travelling longer distances for vaccination, as many centres in their areas have shut down.

Officials said the ward officers have conveyed the same concern to the BMC. “We are looking into it, especially in wards that are recording more footfall, if there is a need for more centres,” said Dr Mangala Gomare, BMC executive health officer.

Meanwhile, some vaccine centres are also facing a shortage of vials. “…On certain days, we are witnessing shortages of vials. Due to less demand, the supply from the Centre has also dropped,” said Dr Avinash Waydande, medical officer of health of S ward.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Mumbai had 31,310 vials of Covishield and 40,770 vials of Covaxin. Gomare said the city received 92,000 doses of Covishield on Wednesday.

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The only silver lining is that the rise in footfall has cut down the waiting period at vaccination centres. Earlier, due to unavailability of beneficiaries, the centres refused to inoculate until adequate number of people turned up. On an average, people had to wait for 50 minutes to an hour.

But now, the waiting period has come down to 15-20 minutes. “It took around five minutes to get registered at the centre and then I had to wait for 10 minutes, as there were two-three people ahead of me,” said Sanjana Salve (23), an engineering student who took her precautionary dose at BKC jumbo centre.

Though the situation has improved for adults, the children still have to wait for hours to get inoculated, which often discourages them from taking the jab, said officials.

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