Mumbai: Grappling with booking cancellation, CoWin crash, citizens question BMC vaccine plan

The BMC resumed the drive for the 45 years and above age group on May 4, but people complained of lack of planning and late-night announcements on Twitter.

With the CoWin application crashing, confirmed appointments cancelled, and slots not available for the second dose, citizens are questioning the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) Covid-19 vaccination plan.

The BMC on Thursday made it mandatory for citizens wishing to get vaccinated (both doses) to get an appointment on the CoWin portal. In a bid to control the crowd and reduce waiting time for citizens, BMC discontinued the walk-in facility for all age groups.

Unaware of the new rule, many citizens gathered outside vaccination centres without appointments. “I don’t know what CoWin is and what to do about it. Last month, my neighbours came to this health post with their identity card and were given the vaccine. Today, they are not even allowing us to enter the premises,” said a 46-year-old Govandi resident, waiting outside the vaccination centre with her mother.

The BMC resumed the drive for the 45 years and above age group on May 4, but people complained of lack of planning and late-night announcements on Twitter.

The BMC said it is looking to set up booths to help senior citizens and those without access to technology to book appointments. Some corporators are helping senior citizens book an appointment, but they said that instances of cancellation are very high. A corporator said on the condition of anonymity, “We help citizens through our ward office to register and book appointments. If it gets cancelled, they blame us. It is a Catch-22 situation.”

Last week, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray asked the central government to allow states to develop their own app for registration of people for COVID-19 vaccination.

After crowding since 6 am outside some centres and disregard of social distancing norms, BMC directed that all citizens should register in advance on the CoWin portal and book an appointment at the vaccination centre of their choice on the same portal before proceeding to the vaccination centre.

However, citizens above 45 years of age due for the second dose of Covaxin will be exempted if they produce the provisional certificate of the first dose in the form of a soft or hard copy. Healthcare workers and other frontline workers, too, will be exempted.

Criticising the BMC’s move, SP MLA Rais Shaikh tweeted, “Aadhar Card is not enough to get the jab of Covid vaccine in Mumbai. Rather a car and a high-speed internet is also a big necessity. It can’t get more elitist than this.”

The inadequate and irregular supply of vaccine to the city has hit the vaccination drive. On Thursday, the numbers increased, with 60,153 citizens taking the shot. Due to erratic supply in April, daily vaccinations were in the range of 25,000-40,000 in the past few weeks. Shaikh has written a letter to the state health minister to ensure timely, regular and adequate supply of vaccine to Mumbai.

Mumbai has 153 vaccination centres, of which 74 are private, 65 BMC-run and 17 by the state government. Currently, vaccination is conducted at government and civic-run centres, including eight vaccination centres for the 18-44 age group.

Unnit Kothari, who has been trying to book an appointment for the second dose for his father and the first dose for his mother, said, “I have been on the CoWin application since 6.55 pm (Friday) for an appointment. The slots remained ‘Booked’.” BMC had at 6.30 tweeted that slots for citizens above 45 years of age will open at 7 pm.

Kothari added, “BMC should at least prioritise citizens waiting for the second dose.”

In reply to complaints from citizens unable to secure appointments on CoWin, BMC on Friday tweeted, “The slots are on the basis (of) stock availability. If not today will be sometime soon. Don’t rush All Will be Vaccinated.”

On Friday, 60,153 citizens were vaccinated, taking the count of people who has received the first dose to 19.99 lakh, and both doses to 5.8 lakh.

BMC began vaccination of the 18-44 group on May 1. Currently there eight centres for this age group. Till now, 13,000 of them have been vaccinated in the city.

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