By Sanghamitra Chandra
India is conducting the largest Covid-19 vaccine drive across the country. With two major Covid-19 vaccines being given to the people, it is imperative that every citizen of the country gets vaccinated on time to be on the safer side during this unprecedented crisis. While many have had a good experience with vaccination, many have not.
Covid-19 pandemic has been knocking down the life of all the people for over a year now. It has become a part of household disease with the second wave. With lots of ups and downs, we are slowly overcoming the crisis and fighting with this virus to survive.
India started vaccinating people a few months back, from Covid workers like doctors, policemen, army, etc and gradually started vaccinating the common people starting with senior citizens over 60 in its first phase. After over a month of Covid-19 vaccine drive, they moved to their second phase vaccinating people above 45 years of age. But with the sudden impact of the second wave of Covid-19, the government announced the third phase of vaccination for the age group 18-45 years from 1st May 2021.
Everyone has been very eager to get vaccinated to fight this pandemic. Consequently, I was also very eager to get my first dose. But the experience of my first Vaccination is a story to talk about.
Once the slots were open for booking, me and my roommates were daily checking the availability of slots our first jab. With the huge population of people in India, getting an appointment through the application Cowin itself was a herculean task. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack.
The slots were filling like lottery tickets being purchased by a crowd and the application server was often jammed and inaccessible due to a huge influx of users. Often the database crashed in the process of providing OTPs on time, which sometimes took hours. I frantically tried every day to try my luck, booking the slot by checking different pin codes near my location to book an appointment. But all was in vain.
The app would often crash creating trouble for people to get an appointment for vaccination. To check the availability of slots nearby, we used to try logging in to the server repeatedly, but as usual, we were stuck hours in getting the login OTP. The app would glitch out to connect to the mobile number often.
This was excruciatingly frustrating, as, by the time we received the OTP, the slots were already filled. This went for almost two weeks. Also, with the growing cases in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, the demand for Covid-19 vaccines were skyrocketing. The vaccine crisis was at a peak. However, after so many hours of attempts, finally, I found a slot. After repetitive 2-3 attempts on 16th May 2021, finally, I was able to book an appointment for the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine on 18th May 2021, at a government healthcare centre in Ghaziabad.
I read about various stories of people that have been flooding the social media platforms sharing their experiences about getting vaccinated. I was very excited thinking that after a long struggle, I finally got my slot and will be vaccinated.
The day of vaccination finally came, and I took every precautionary measure to prevent myself from getting contaminated with gloves, face shield, double masks, hair cover, disinfectant spray, and sanitiser. Our appointment was booked in the slot from 12-1 PM.
Me and my roommate took a cab to the designated Covid-19 vaccine centre and reached 15 minutes prior to complete all registration formalities. But on reaching the location, it was very disturbing to see that even with the rise of cases daily by lakhs, the people are not at all conscious. No proper social distancing, no proper sanitation, and no guidelines boards were practised at the Covid-19 vaccine centre as being said by the WHO.
We saw two separate lines for vaccination, one for 45+ and another for 18+ and above. After waiting for over an hour in the cue, we got our number to take the token. At the counter, there were three women helpers sitting, who checked our verifications. After providing the necessary verification details such as the Aadhar number, Cowin registration code received on our respective mobile numbers, we were told to wait for about 10 minutes in the vaccination line to be called out for getting our jabs.
Wait, you might be getting bored. But, there are bit more tell to tale.
Suddenly, there was a power cut at that vaccination centre. What was astonishing to see was that there was no power backup at all. What shocked me, was that even the vaccination room was not provided with a basic source of power. The room where the Covid-19 vaccine was being given was pitch dark with no emergency lamp, torch or anything.
There was a health worker who flashed her mobile phone torch to guide the other lady who was giving the shot to people. This kind of carelessness in a government vaccine centre was very embarrassing. Finally, my turn came, and I found that the officials were not following proper sanitization guidelines at all.
The seats were not properly sanitised after use and even the health workers did not sanitize their hands after every vaccine shot. With news spreading of hoaxed vaccines being given at different centres, I feared and supervised that I received the correct dosage. The workers also did not take time to educate people about complications of Covid-19 vaccines and the Dos and Don’ts post-vaccination.
As per the WHO guidelines, each patient after the vaccine should be kept under observation for at least 30 minutes, but here there was no such thing and patients were instantly released after the shot. As I came to know about different people’s experiences after taking the vaccine, some people had fever and body aches after pain while some just got over with slight arm pains. For me, the aftereffect of the vaccine included painful body aches and fever.
Although the hospitalisation services in Delhi have been a good experience for me in the past. But unfortunately, it was not a very good experience this time while I got my first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in a government centre. I am not criticizing the government, but this Covid-19 vaccine drive did not go well in many places. I personally feel that the government should investigate this because most people are not aware of the pros and cons. The government should make the Cowin app more user friendly and provide more slots so that every single citizen can avail them and get vaccinated on time.
Also Read: Of virus, vaccine, and vehemence
(Sanghamitra Chandra is a PR professional living in Delhi NCR for half a decade.)
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