With a massive shortage of vaccines staring in its face, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is now devising ways to prioritise vaccination for its local population especially its lower-income groups.
With an impending third wave of the pandemic, the BMC wants to ensure that it can reach and vaccinate a maximum number of people despite its limited resources. “We are now tieing-up with non-government organisations to help vaccinate those residing in the slums and the neglected, unpenetrated population,” said additional municipal commissioner, Suresh Kakani.
After focusing on specific high-risk groups like the frontline workers, pregnant and lactating women and even bed-ridden patients, the BMC is now shifting focus to low-income communities, especially those residing in slums in a bid to vaccinate all and contain the chain of COVID19 transmission.
While the BMC already has its network of centers at such places, it has also managed to get four mobile vans to reach groups like commercial sex workers, those infected with the HIV, migrant construction workers, hawkers etc.
The BMC estimates that the economically privileged sections, who can afford to buy vaccines, have already been vaccinated. The private health institutions that manage about 123 centres in Mumbai, have administered more than 35 lakh vaccinations in the city till August 18.
How many people are vaccinated in Mumbai?
As of 18 August, only about 20.83 lakh people or just 23 % of Mumbai has been fully vaccinated utilising about 82.43 lakh doses since the inception of the vaccination program in the city on January 16. This includes about 2300 bed ridden patients, about 674 pregnant women and 2262 physically and mentally challenged beneficiaries.
The BMC claimed that though 82, 43789 vaccines were used in Mumbai it is not clear how many vaccines were administered for the local residents. “It’s unclear if the vaccine stocks held by private hospitals in Mumbai were used up for vaccinating Mumbaikars since a hospital in Mumbai could share its stock with its chain of hospitals in other cities,” explained Kakani. A shortage in vaccination centres and doses in neighbouring satellite townships like Vasai and Palghar, compelled many to book slots in Mumbai via the CoWin App.
Mumbai gets the most vaccines in the state
Given that Mumbai is the most populated city in the state , it tends to corner the highest share of vaccine doses. Of the total 5,12,67,287 vaccination doses administered in Maharashtra, Mumbai makes for 85,86,301 – between January 16 till August 18 – the highest among all 35 districts of Maharashtra. Comparatively, neighbouring districts of Thane and Palghar managed to administer only 41, 53,370 and 8,63,612 vaccine doses, respectively, during the same period. Daily reports detail an uneven distribution of vaccines, with Mumbai numbers on a single day of August 18th touching about 86,378 people vaccinated, Thane still at only 25,767 and Palghar just about reaching 3463 people vaccinated.
Since the stock is higher, it is unsurprising that many from neighbouring districts chose to travel to the city for their shot.
Emphasis on vaccinating local people
Following the decision by the government to allow fully vaccinated citizens access to the local trains, the city’s largest and most accessible transportation service, the urgency to vaccinate has deepened.
The shortage in vaccine supply is forcing the BMC to devise new methods towards their plan to fully vaccinate the entire city. As part of its initiative to prioritise its local population, the BMC has now decided to start a 100% walk-in vaccination facility at about 72% of the total 315 public vaccination centres in Mumbai. This facility was started for each of the nodal vaccination centres in the 227 electoral wards while the 50% online booking was retained in the other centres.
Of the 432 vaccination centres in Mumbai, the BMC manages about 295 centres, 20 centres are managed by the Maharashtra government, while the private sector runs about 117 centres.
“With walk-ins, only those who stay around the centers will be at an advantage as only they can afford to come down without an appointment,” explained Kakani, claiming that the BMC’s plan to vaccinate all in this manner could lead to chaos.
The influx of those residing from neighbouring districts also means that the BMC is unable to figure out as to what percentage of Mumbai’s population is completely inoculated.
New system worked
Ultimately, BMC’s plan worked. At Goregaon’s NESCO centre, which served as one of the most popular and largest COVID19 treatment facilities managed by the BMC, many who came for their vaccine dose benefited greatly from the proximity to the centre. Those from low-income communities who struggled with booking appointments online were able to access the vaccine faster this way. “I do not have access to an android phone and hence could not book an appointment so far,” says Vinod Yadav, who works as a small-time mandap decorator. Yadav, a resident of Goregaon, says that he wants to get vaccinated to be able to travel on the local train to work.
The unavailability of free vaccines meant that even after queuing up for hours on multiple days, he did not get his dose.