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Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation may take slum dwellers in batches for vaccination, provide transport

Mumbai has vaccinated over 2.13 lakh people aged more than 60 years and those aged 45-59 years with co-morbidities; and vaccination centres have reported very few from slums in this pool.

Written by Tabassum Barnagarwala | Mumbai |
March 12, 2021 8:03:36 pm
In a two-pronged approach, the state has directed districts to not only scale up testing and treating, but also speed up vaccination to tackle the virus at both fronts. (Express Photo by Vasant Prabhu)

With the vaccination drive yet to get numbers in slum pockets, the BMC is considering involving community health workers (CHC) to bring people to vaccination centres in batches and drop them back at their neighbourhood after vaccination.

Mumbai has vaccinated over 2.13 lakh people aged more than 60 years and those aged 45-59 years with co-morbidities; and vaccination centres have reported very few from slums in this pool. Ward officials have noted vaccine hesitancy and lack of time during the day with daily wagers as the most common reasons people give for not getting a shot.

Mumbai continues to record a surge in new Covid-19 cases, with more than 1,500 cases recorded consecutively in the last two days, a three-fold rise over the numbers until the first week of February.

In a two-pronged approach, the state has directed districts to not only scale up testing and treating, but also speed up vaccination to tackle the virus at both fronts. Over 80 per cent of new Covid-19 cases are limited to residential societies and mostly asymptomatic. No worrying hotspot has been noticed in slums. This gives civic officials time to gradually scale up vaccination in slum areas, officials said.

“We are considering roping in CHCs to raise awareness and counsel slum dwellers. They will bring people in groups to vaccination centres and registration will be done on the spot. First we need to ramp up the number of facilities,” said Dr Sheela Jagtap, BMC immunisation officer. Transportation to and from centres will be free in slums.

However, there are hiccups. In L-ward covering Kurla, which has over 70 per cent slums, medical officer Dr Jeetendra Jadhav said CHCs have already started visiting slums to raise vaccine awareness. “We are providing free transport to the vaccine centre and back. Our health workers are counselling people door-to-door that vaccine is safe, the Prime Minister and Chief Minister have taken it, and it is absolutely free. But most refuse, stating they have to work and can’t spare 2-3 hours,” Jadhav said.

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Several people in slums said they do not understand how to register online, and some expressed reservations about the vaccine. Jadhav said they came across similar resistance during the Measles-rubella vaccination drive and before that during pulse polio vaccination.

Dr Pallavi Junagade, medical officer in Qureshi Nagar, said that since March 1, her staff has been visiting people to educate them about the vaccine. Each health worker visits 100 houses and has ensure at least 10 turn up for vaccination in a day. “Several have started working recently and they don’t want to waste an entire day in vaccination queue. Since Covid-19 cases are low in slums, the fear of infection is long gone,” Junagade said.

In H-east ward covering Bandra East, where a huge slum spans next to the station, the ward office has been urged to provide vaccination in the slum for ease of access. “But adverse event management can get difficult. We need an ICU set up instantly to handle anyone who gets critical,” said medical officer Dr Satish Badgire.

Unlike in high-rises, where senior citizens can rest at home, in slums several elderly people continue to work and cannot afford a day’s break, he said. “Once the timing for vaccination extends till night in government centres, then people can come after work. Right now government centres vaccinate between 9 am and 6 pm,” he said.

About 60 per cent population in M-West ward, covering Govandi and Chembur, comprises slums. Medical officer Dr Bhupendra Patil said slum dwellers prefer BMC facility to private centres but they are scared to visit government hospitals. “There is a discussion on whether we can start vaccination at health posts or dispensaries to provide easy access for slums. Our only concern is AEFI management. Although very rare, we cannot take the risk,” said Patil.

In ‘My Family My Responsibility’ survey, BMC recorded a population of 30 lakh who are high risk and aged above 50 years. BMC has immunised 8.3 per cent of this population till date.

State epidemiologist Dr Pradeep Awate said next month the central government may discuss making vaccines available for all once the high-risk population is largely covered.

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