A day after the much-discussed swearing-in ceremony of the newly-elected Kerala government on May 20, the massive pandal constructed for the occasion was turned into a vaccination centre. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said during a press conference that vaccination has started for priority groups and on the first day, employees of the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation were included.
The swearing-in pandal – 80,000 square feet in area – was built at the Central Stadium, located at the back of the Secretariat, in Thiruvananthapuram. It had been a much-debated point, as the swearing-in ceremony was conducted at a time when cases of COVID-19 were in the 30,000s and the city had been put under triple lockdown to contain the spread. The Left Democratic Front (LDF) government however maintained that it would follow all protocol, limiting the number of participants to 500. Those who took part in the event had to have either had both doses of the vaccine or tested negative for the coronavirus.
However, a day after the swearing-in ceremony, the pandal was duly converted into a vaccination centre. The Hindu reports that about 300 people are expected to be vaccinated every day since Saturday.
Earlier this year, the state government had begun a massive vaccination drive, starting with the age group of 60 plus and later 45 plus. The aim was to finish the vaccination of these more vulnerable age groups by May 20. However, at the beginning of May, a vaccine shortage that touched the entire country, caused the drive to stop midway. The mass vaccination camp at Jimmy George Stadium was stopped due to a shortage in the supply of vaccines to the state from the Union government.
Dr SS Lal, who was the Congress candidate from Kazhakuttam for the recent Assembly election, had made the suggestion of converting the pandal in the Central Stadium into a vaccination centre. "I have come to understand that the pandal can accommodate up to 5,000 people. It is a wide space with a lot of air circulation. Since there are no sports events happening at the stadium, please don't break down the pandal. It should be used for COVID-19 vaccination, especially for the elderly,” wrote Dr SS Lal on Facebook on the afternoon of May 20.