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Govt-run centres shut, young workers in Delhi find paid vaccines beyond their reach

The Delhi government has allowed for manufacturing units to resume operations from Monday – partially lifting the six-week lockdown – but many young workers have been asked by their employers not to report to work till they get the vaccine.

Written by Sukrita Baruah | New Delhi |
Updated: May 31, 2021 12:22:21 am
Supreme Court on covid vaccination, Covid-19, Covid-19 India Second Wave, SC on vaccination, Supreme Court on Covid vaccines, 18-44 vaccination drive, Covid news, Indian ExpressThe Delhi High Court Tuesday said that the Centre’s policy did not prioritise youth in the Covid vaccination drive. (Express photo by Amit Mehra)

With newer paid vaccination facilities opening for those in the 18-44 category and government-run centres remaining shut for a week now, the vaccine divide among the youth in the capital has never been starker.

In Wazirpur Industrial Area, young workers have found themselves in an impossible situation. The Delhi government has allowed for manufacturing units to resume operations from Monday – partially lifting the six-week lockdown – but many young workers have been asked by their employers not to report to work till they get the vaccine.

This, however, is easier said than done. The government school centre in Wazirpur village which was vaccinating people in the 18-44 category has been shut for a while now, like around 400 other state-run centres, after the Delhi government ran out of vaccine stocks for this category.

“Around a week ago, the factory owner told me we have to first get a shot, only then can we come to work. After he said that, I registered myself on Cowin with a friend’s help. But I have not been able to get a booking. I have heard that people my age are only getting shots at private hospitals but those are for around Rs 1,000. I haven’t even been able to pay my rent, how do I pay for that? But the factory owner said that he can’t take any risks,” said 23-year-old Ajmat Ali, who works in a steel utensils manufacturing unit. He earns Rs 6,000 per month, but there has been no work for a month now.

Jahrun Shehrunisa (30), a widow with three children, also works at a similar unit which has told workers of the same condition. She said the peon at the ‘factory’ had registered her on the Cowin website but she has not got a booking. “I only know people much older than me from my workplace who have gotten vaccinated. I’m just sitting at home, waiting,” she said.

The only vaccination options open to people their age are in private hospitals, which are charging between Rs 800 and Rs 1,300 – a price too steep for many.

In the last week, some more flexible but even more costly options have opened up. On Sunday morning, Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain inaugurated a two-day drive-through vaccination drive at DLF Avenue, Saket, by Max Hospital Saket where the Covishield vaccine will be available for Rs 1,100.

Last week, both Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had inaugurated the first such drive-through centres in the city — at Vegas Mall in Dwarka by Aakash Healthcare Super Speciality Hospital and a two-day drive at Select City Walk mall in Saket by Fortis Hospital. The dose at the Dwarka centre is offered at Rs 1,400 and at Saket for Rs 1,450.

“We appeal to the central government to make vaccines available for the youth of Delhi as soon as possible because it’s become a week that vaccines have been unavailable for them. Vaccines for the youth are only available at expensive private hospitals… It’s a big question: the Delhi government which was administering vaccines for free doesn’t have a single dose available today while those private hospitals which are providing vaccines at expensive rates are continuing to administer. Today, private hospitals are administering more vaccines than the government only because those are available with them. I would like to ask the central government what kind of a scam is this?” said AAP MLA Atishi while presenting Sunday’s vaccine bulletin, which showed that only 21,566 first doses were administered to people in that category.

There had also been vaccination camps in neighbourhoods for those in the 18-44 category by private hospitals, organised by RWAs. On Saturday, Madhukar Rainbow Children’s Hospital had begun a week-long vaccination drive at Sainik Farms for all categories above 18 years, offering Covishield at Rs 1,100.

Before this, the hospital had conducted neighbourhood camps at localities such as Geetanjali Enclave, Vasant Kunj and Nizamuddin. However, the hospital said it would wrap these up on Monday due to new government directives. “We have got a directive that such camps can only be organised for those over 60. In that case, the camps don’t mean much for us or for the people in the neighbourhoods as most people in that category are already vaccinated. We have stock so the vaccines will be administered at the hospital itself. When we go to RWAs, it makes life simpler for people,” said Dinesh Vashisht, senior administrator at the hospital.

The newer options are unthinkable for Naresh Pal, a 27-year-old UPSC aspirant who earns enough for his expenses by holding tuition classes for children. This too, has come to a complete halt during the lockdown. During the deadly Covid wave of the last two months, he had worked with a volunteer group, carrying supplies like oxygen cylinders and medicines, and arranging ambulances for patients in distress.

“I’m still helping deliver ration to people in various parts of East Delhi. No one wants to take a chance; I would ideally like to be vaccinated for this, but Rs 1,000 for a dose is beyond my reach,” he said.

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