The Union government on Tuesday opened up vaccination for all those above 45 years of age in India. Previously, in addition to frontline workers (of all ages) and those above 60 years of age, COVID-19 vaccines were administered to persons having comorbid conditions and aged between 45 and 59 years. However, in Chennai, quite a few residents who are not under any of the instructed categories, have been able to get themselves inoculated. While some have attributed this to WhatsApp forwards claiming anyone above 18 years of age can get inoculated, others have been encouraged to do so after seeing such notices put up at a few Primary Health Centre (PHC) in the city.
However, on Tuesday, rebuffing these claims, Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) put out a tweet that confirmed only official rules by the Union government were being followed. â€śDo not trust the fake news about the COVID-19 vaccine. At present, all those aged above 60 and those between 45 - 59 with co-morbidities are eligible to get vaccine. Wait for your turn to get vaccinated,â€ť read their tweet. Notably, just a few days ago, Corporation Commissioner G Prakash told reporters that categories of frontline workers were being made broader by including street vendors, hawkers, security guards, and other informal waste collectors.
Do not trust the fake news about the COVID-19 vaccine.â€” Greater Chennai Corporation (@chennaicorp) March 23, 2021
At present, all those aged above 60 and those between 45 -59 with co-morbidities are eligible to get vaccine.
Wait for your turn to get vaccinated.#VaccineSavesLives#Covid19Chennai#GCC #ChennaiCorporation pic.twitter.com/CdBEcY02u4
TNM spoke to a few Chennai residents, not falling within the age bracket, who were successful in getting themselves vaccinated from government health centres. According to their accounts, the public health centres were open to administering vaccine shots to youngsters and those without any comorbidities.
On March 21, Sunday, 41-year-old Srini Swaminathan a resident of south Chennai got his first dose of COVID-19 vaccine at a Primary Health Centre (PHC) near his house. â€śLike everyone else Iâ€™ve been waiting my turn. But Iâ€™ve been coming across news from foreign countries where healthcare workers are encouraging more people to take up shots, especially when there are extra doses available. I was sure it might be the case here too,â€ť Srini tells TNM.
This encouraged Srini, who works as a consultant in the city, to approach a nearby PHC to get some clarity. â€śI heard mixed stories from people. My friend, whoâ€™s around my age, in fact shared that when she approached the health centre, she was not refused but asked to come back early some other day. I just thought Iâ€™d try my luck,â€ť he adds.
It was a similar incident that also prompted 34-year-old Preethika, a media professional and her husband Narayanan Hariharan (36 years). â€śWe saw a post that said a PHC at a place called Dasarathapuram was open to persons above 18 years of age to walk in. We immediately jumped the gun and went to a PHC at Mandaveli to see if we could get it done for ourselves,â€ť Preethika shares.
While this particular PHC did not take them in, the couple had better luck at another PHC in Alwarpet. â€śHere they were open to persons above 20 years of age. We were four of us all under 45 with no comorbid conditions. The vaccination process itself was very straightforward. But I understand that today, the same PHC is not taking in persons below 45,â€ť she adds. Over the past few days, more number of people not fitting the age criteria across Tamil Nadu have also taken to Twitter to share that theyâ€™ve been vaccinated.
In queue at a PHC in Abhiramapuram. It is super clean and well organized. They are vaccinating those above 18 here. #Chennai https://t.co/UXWs8S4NUFâ€” Narayanan Hariharan (@narayananh) March 21, 2021
Coimbatore peeps ! 18+ can get vaccinated at selected Phc's.â€” Saradhambal (@sharks2093) March 23, 2021
I got vaccinated in Corporation Maternity Hospital Nanjappa road. Very clean and well maintained. Doctor is very friendly and helpful in clearing any queries regarding vaccine.#coimbatore #COVID19Vaccination pic.twitter.com/Fodhzoj9Rk
According to the information provided by Serum Institute (manufacturer of Covishield), opened vials, containing 10 doses per vial, should be discarded within six hours. Bharat Biotechâ€™s Covaxin, on the other hand, that comes in 20 doses per vial should be used within four hours from the time of opening. This could be one reason why some of the PHC admit persons who donâ€™t fit the age criteria to take the shot, to avoid wastage.
This is notable from the number of vaccinations done in the city. While Chennai has the capacity to administer 60,000 doses daily, on March 22, Tuesday, GCC reported inoculating just 35,747 persons. As of March 23, 5.34 lakh people have been vaccinated in the city.
Vaccination Report in #Chennai Districtâ€” Greater Chennai Corporation (@chennaicorp) March 24, 2021
As of 23.03.2021, a total of 5,34,960 people have been vaccinated in Chennai and 35,031 people have been vaccinated on 23.03.2021.#VaccineSavesLives #Covid19Chennai#GCC #ChennaiCorporation pic.twitter.com/Q5Ct3kngAQ
While admitting that wastage could be one among the reasons, Dr Anant Bhan, bioethics and global health researcher says, â€śBut now that weâ€™re seeing an increase in the number of cases, some people feel it's better to increase vaccination coverage. There could be informal communication from senior staff to not discourage walk-ins. Also, in a sense, as long as those are badly in need of it are not getting sidelined, this is okay. At the same time, we should also increase our community outreach to make sure weâ€™re covering the entire vulnerable population.â€ť
However, according to former Tamil Nadu Director of Public Health Kolandasamy, the focus should be on getting more people to come up and take the shot. â€śUltimately, cause for concern should be when thereâ€™s a shortage of vaccines. In the absence of such a problem, what weâ€™re dealing with is reluctance to vaccination. Therefore we should not discourage those willing to vaccinate themselves. Plans should be to expand categories and reach as many people as we can,â€ť he explains.
The day Srini visited the PHC at Adambakkam, he recalled, â€śI saw about 10 people at the centre and most of them were young, some probably in their 20s. In fact my parents too saw younger people at the PHC where they got vaccinated earlier,â€ť he shares.
Got my 1st dose of COVID vaccine at a @chennaicorp primary health centre today. (I am 41) Guess this is because of availability of extra doses in my area. Many people less than 45 years got vaccinated today. It was super smooth & simple process. V impressed with the health centre pic.twitter.com/IZCh7pOI45â€” Srini Swaminathan (@srini091) March 21, 2021
But Srini also received hate and flak on social media for having taken the vaccine shot. â€śI am not stealing anyoneâ€™s chance. And frankly, I donâ€™t suppose they would risk their job just to give me a shot,â€ť he asserts.
Greater Chennai Corporation has consolidated the list of vaccination centres across the city where people above 60 years of age and those above 45 years of age with comorbidities can walk in and get themselves vaccinated against the COVID-19 disease. Full list can be checked here.