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Friday, July 23, 2021

Vaccination must for businesses to remain open: Many centres in Vadodara out of vaccine, traders urge govt to extend deadline

On Saturday, a few vaccination centres in Vadodara witnessed chaos as those walking in had to be turned away as they ran out of doses.

Written by Aditi Raja | Vadodara |
Updated: June 27, 2021 2:06:01 am
Gujarat vaccine newsVadodara Catholic Association and Vadodara Municipal Corporation organise a vaccination drive in Fatehgunj. (Express Photo by Bhupendra Rana)

EVEN as curbs are set to ease from Sunday allowing businesses to open only if their owners, managers and staff are vaccinated, the pace of inoculation slowed down over the week, and was suspended at some centres in the four big cities of the state, even as traders in Vadodara demanded an extension of the deadline.

On Saturday, a few vaccination centres in Vadodara witnessed chaos as those walking in had to be turned away as they ran out of doses. Dr Devesh Patel, Medical Officer for Health, Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC), said that the civic body is facing stress because the state government allots doses in staggered numbers, considering only the daily footfall.

Yet among the four cities, till Saturday Vadodara had the highest percentage of targetted population above 18 years fully vaccinated at 24.06 per cent, followed by Rajkot at 18 per cent, Surat at 11.2 per cent and Ahmedabad at 11 per cent.

According to Dr Patel, “The state government sends us the stock quantity a day prior and we have to plan the distribution and number of centres on a daily basis. The number of vaccination centres as well as the stock availability is not fixed. We do face issues at some popular centres where there is a lot of crowd but it is because people do not check the slot before going to the centre. Even if they are walking in, they should go to the app and check centres where slots are available at that moment.”

Patel said that on Saturday, the VMC received 25,000 doses of Covaxin, of which 6,000 were administered. “The government has told us that they will send new stock only when the stock is zero. But we still do not get the doses in time. We have no buffer stock. Now, we have 5,000 Covishield doses available and several people are due for second dose of Covishield. So if people turn up at centres asking for Covishield when Covaxin is being supplied, we cannot help it,” Patel said.

The mandatory vaccination by June 30 in the eight municipal corporations and 10 towns of the state which will continue to be under night
curfew, has not gone down well with the business community, which is questioning the government preparedness for the vaccination drive.

Paresh Parikh, General Secretary, Confederation Of All India Traders (CAIT), said, “Vadodara traders have already held three major vaccination camps and we are holding four other camps. It is not possible to vaccinate so many traders and employees by June 30. We have close to 20 lakh traders registered in Gujarat and with the employees included, the number would be about 70 lakh people.”

He said when the government does not have enough doses of either vaccine it was “unfair to push traders to a brink by threatening them with warnings of shutting down shops after June 30”.

Parikh said the trader community had sought extension of the deadline to July 15 as it has led to “fear” among them. He said Vadodara city police on Saturday made “intimidating announcements in market areas of old city (about vaccinating)”.

In Ahmedabad city, as per the municipal corporation’s estimates, 26.28 lakh people in the 18-44 group and 15.85 lakh people in the above 45 years’ group are eligible for the vaccine, that is a total of 42.14 lakh population. Overall, across the two groups, 23.69 lakh vaccine doses have been administered, including second doses. Additionally, the vaccine eligible population among healthcare workers and frontline workers are an estimated 2.5 lakh, most of whom have been covered with at least one vaccine dose, said an AMC official.

Overall, the city has managed to cover about 11 per cent of the population with the second dose.

As on Friday, Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC) has covered 18 per cent of its adult population with both doses of the vaccine — 6,89,501 first doses and 1,70,826 second doses.

The VMC, which had over 35 vaccination sites in the city to begin with, began witnessing a drop in the numbers following the initial euphoria.

Patel said, “For close to three weeks now, the appointment slots, that got full within minutes, have not been taken. There is a section of the population that has still not made up its mind and those who have inhibitions as well as a set of people with inertia. So, when groups, companies, organisations or trusts approach us with at least 150 recipients, we organise the vaccine session at their location by sending the vials and vaccinators. In that way, we have been able to reach out to many who did not otherwise come to the vaccination centres.”

Among the efforts include joint enforcement team of the Vadodara city police and the VMC vaccinating Covid-19 “super spreaders” identified in 50 hotspots in the city with the SHE Team of the Vadodara police helping register the individuals on the CoWIN application and coordinating with the local ward offices to ferry the persons to the nearest vaccination centres.

The local corporators and members of the ruling party also encouraged various organisations and associations of traders and other bodies to hold vaccination camps and announce rewards for those taking vaccinations.

The Vadodara Traders’ Association has been at the forefront to encourage vendors, traders and employees to get vaccinated in order to protect themselves and their families from the virus. Similarly, CREDAI Vadodara has also announced paid leave for employees of its members if they get vaccinated. Some private universities and colleges also made it mandatory for students to be vaccinated before they started in-person sessions.

Vadodara MLA Yogesh Patel, who is also the Minister of State for Narmada and Urban Housing, has urged the state government to make it mandatory that those only persons who have taken the vaccines will be eligible to receive ration from fairprice shops.

Surat health department sources said that against the target of 33 lakh people above 18 years, the health officials have vaccinated 19.70 lakh till June 25, out of which 15.98 lakh got their first dose and 3.72 lakh second dose. Due to short supply of vaccines, Surat Municipal Corporation reduced vaccination centres from 230 to 100, from Friday onwards, said officials.

(With inputs from Kamaal Saiyed in Surat, Sohini Ghosh in Ahmedabad and Gopal Kateshiya in Rajkot)

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