The first week of the Covid vaccination drive in Delhi for the age group 18-45 is over and with it, over three lakh people have been vaccinated. However, as the rest of us sit at home and make a game out of refreshing the CoWin page every few seconds, Youth Ki Awaaz talked to some of the lucky ones who made it in the first week. Here are a few takeaways on the registration process and what to expect at the vaccine centre on the day of your first jab.
While registering on the website is an easy task, the real struggle comes while booking an available slot for the jab. These slots get booked within seconds of coming live. “Getting the first dose was a priority as the second one can be availed from any centre. Hence, I decided to book the first slot I find in any nearby area,” said Gaurav Noronha, a Delhi-based journalist. After regularly checking the app 3-4 times a day and rescheduling it once, Gaurav finally found a slot for May 2 at a government school near Jama Masjid.
“There are more chances of finding a slot if you look by district rather than pincode,” he shared.
What Gaurav is suggesting is to look for centres in adjoining areas within your district, and not driving to empty slots in villages two hours away, only to deprive the local population from getting vaccinated (as many tech-savvy urbanites have been reportedly doing as if to finish the contest first).
Kunal Rawtani, a resident of Jaipur, shared that many states and cities put out available slots at a particular time of the day. “You need to figure out that pattern and keep trying with endless clicks to get a slot,” he said.
However, if you do not find this gamification of getting a vaccine you are rightfully entitled to amusing, you can let others do this for you. Like 24-year-old Yash Vardhan Gaddhyan did. “I got to know about a telegram group that shares the availability of slots as soon as they come on the CoWin portal,” he said. Yash is talking about the many telegram groups and tracker sites available to book vaccine slots.
On May 3, he found for himself the morning slot for May 6 and booked it immediately. There are also several filters available now that one can apply to their calendar and make the process a lot times easier.
— Berty Thomas (@BertyThomas) May 1, 2021
And you don’t have to go through this trouble for each of your family members or friends. A lesser accessible feature on CoWin that not many know about is that you can register a maximum of four people under one name or mobile number. This way, all of you get the same slot in a single click (albeit after multiple refreshes).
The Delhi government has opened 301 vaccination sites in 76 schools for the age group of 18-45 years and most of these schools have a large ground and big infrastructure to accommodate more beneficiaries.
The process to get your first dose is simple. After one has booked a slot, they are supposed to carry a soft copy of their appointment slip, hard copy of the identity card (Aadhaar or passport) used for registration on CoWin. Once the two documents are checked, you’re given the jab and asked to wait in a waiting room for the next 30 minutes. If no symptoms develop during this period, you are asked to go. As one might have to stand under the sun for half an hour, a water bottle and an umbrella or cap are also recommended.
“On the day of my vaccination, I won’t lie, I was sceptical. I wasn’t sure about the situation at the government school. However, I was extremely pleasantly surprised,” shared Aadya Ahuja, who booked a slot at the Government Boys School in Rajouri Garden.
Each centre is divided into ‘sites’, each site being a specific vaccination room. While maintaining physical distancing, people are divided according to their site to get their documents checked and receive a token. Each site also has a dedicated waiting room and post-jab observation room. Distancing is maintained everywhere and policemen are stationed outside each room to escort the beneficiaries in order.
“Several policeman were also checking if people had their masks on. Constant announcements were being made on loudspeakers to remind people to follow Covid protocols,” said Aadya. Some centres even had beds for resting or if someone was feeling weak.
Most people described their experience at the government centres as well-managed, but a lot depends on the particular school as well. “While the government school I went to in Dwarka had a huge playground to put up a tent that can accommodate 30-40 people at a social distance, not all schools have big playgrounds or enough space outside the gate,” said 25-year-old Anish Kapoor.
Gaurav, who went to the school near Jama Masjid, said, “The centre had a manageable crowd of around 50 people and the managerial staff, as well as the policemen employed at the centre, were friendly. The process was being run efficiently. However,” he added, “some rooms were too small to maintain adequate physical distancing and there was not much space outside the centre for people waiting in the queue.”
However, the condition turned below par a few hundred kilometres south and west, in Jaipur. “No Covid protocols were being followed outside the vaccination centre. People were standing right next to each other, and the outside compound wasn’t sanitised either. The medical staff at the centre had to come outside and ask people to maintain social distance,” said Kunal, who got his shot on May 6. On the same day at another centre, his brother had to face an even longer queue as the vaccines reached the centre only by 11:30-12pm.
To ease their burden of vaccinating the whole population, state governments have asked private hospitals to open their own vaccination centres. However, only the three big chains, Apollo, Max and Fortis, have been able to roll out the drive at some of their branches.
In Delhi, BL Kapur Memorial Hospital (acquired by Max) on Pusa Road has become one of the biggest centres. The hospital has a capacity of over 1,000 people per slot and is one of the first to appear on the CoWin portal. “I was looking for a centre near my house in Ghaziabad, but all the centres there have been booked till May end. So I started looking for centres in Delhi and BL Kapur was one of the first to turn up,” said 24-year-old Madhulika. She booked a slot on May 6 for a 9am-12pm slot for May 8.
“I reached the venue at 8:30 am and had to wait in a queue of at least 200 people. But despite this large volume of people the centre was inoculating per day, the waiting time was less, the crowd was being managed well and all physical distancing norms were maintained,” said Madhulika.
The whole process took her 40 minutes, including the 30-minute post-jab observation period. “We didn’t have to look anywhere to figure out the process as the managerial staff was everywhere and helping people out. There were sanitisers at many places, washrooms were clean and everyone was wearing a mask,” she added.
While the Delhi government plans to vaccinate the whole population in the next three months, the vaccines can’t be given to all. There are certain conditions and precautions involved in inoculation and our governments have been clumsy about maintain them.
While most doctors – at both private and government centres – administering the vaccine were asking from beneficiaries about previous allergies or ongoing treatment, this evaluation should have been more detailed and followed unanimously.
As per the guidelines issues by the Union Health Ministry in December 2020, vaccines are not advised to pregnant and lactating womxn. On the other hand, the Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI) recommends them the vaccine, as the benefits outweigh any remote risk of the vaccine. Please consult your doctor for your specific health condition and medical history if you are in this group. As with the doctors administrating the vaccine at the centres, they must identify these people at the vaccination centre itself and guide them accordingly.
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“None of the medical staff asked me if I had eaten anything before the shot, which is important,” Mehak Vachher (24) said, mentioning that she had read up on her own about not taking the shot on an empty stomach. Other precautions include not applying ice pack or heat pack at the jab spot, staying hydrated and keeping away from drinking alcohol or smoking for the next 48 hours. The organisers at each centre must ensure that these points are mentioned on posters or banners all over the centre in the form of FAQs.
As Delhi plans to vaccinate its eligible population of 92 lakhs, it has placed an order of 1.34 crore vaccines to be delivered over the next three months. With a positive feedback in the first week of the vaccination drive, the process is likely to get smoother in the coming weeks.
How has the vaccination experience been in your city? Tell your story in the comments below or share it on YKA here.