There is a serpentine row of plastic chairs with senior citizens and their attendants seated, devoid of physical distancing, waiting for the queue to move.
There is a serpentine row of plastic chairs with senior citizens and their attendants seated, devoid of physical distancing, waiting for the queue to move.

Senior citizens turned away in Hyderabad as PHCs limit vaccine shots to 200 per day

On Saturday, several senior citizens were standing in long queues with no physical distancing, and with just one counter catering to 200 people.

Several senior citizens who walked in for their second dose of Covishield vaccine on Saturday were turned away from health care centres in Hyderabad owing to limited vaccine stock. Senior citizens who approached Urban Primary Healthcare Centres (UPHC’s) in Hyderabad were told that there were only 200 vaccine shots available for the day. 

The Telangana government has decided to prioritise people's second vaccine dose from May 8 to May 15, with a limited stock of 3.75 lakh doses. Several of these vaccine shots are already booked over the CoWIN portal. PHC officials issue tokens for the remaining vaccine shots on a first come first serve basis. The tokens ran out quick, leaving senior citizens to scramble for their second vaccine shot.  

“Come on May 10 before 10 am and stand in line for a token,” said the staff at the Urban PHC at SR Nagar to a dejected Baigh Singh, a 63-year-old who had walked in for his second dose of Covishield vaccine.

“I got my first dose at a private hospital, it was an easy process but this is a hassle. Now there is no stock at private hospitals. The Union government has mismanaged the vaccine drive,” said Baigh Singh who had already tried to get his second dose with no luck at Borabanda PHC near his residence. “I am now going home, and will try again on Monday. My wife also needs the second dose,” he said.

The PHC opposite the SR Nagar police station is easy to locate and hence a sought-after vaccination centre among senior citizens. There was a serpentine row of plastic chairs with senior citizens and their attendants, devoid of physical distancing, waiting for the queue to move.

“I am from Moti Nagar, but I came to SR Nagar as it's easier to find,” said KS Ramesh, a 72-year-old businessman, who managed to arrive early and get a token for his second dose of Covishield vaccine. “My token number is 137 and I have been waiting for over three hours. Why are they making people of our age wait outside in queues in this heat during a pandemic? They should make the process quick and easy. For 200 people, they have just one counter,” he rued.

PHC staff from SR Nagar, Sayed Nagar and Banjara Hills all said that their respective PHCs have just one counter but did not report any unprecedented rush. 

Shyam Kumar with HelpAge India said all PHCs in Hyderabad operate with just one vaccine counter leading to long queues. “Apart from the long queues, there are no dedicated queues for senior citizens. They have to stand with people from all age groups, several of whom might be carriers of the virus. There are several PHCs where the COVID-19 vaccination is happening at one and COVID testing is being carried out at another end. Senior citizens have expressed fear of standing in these long queues. The crowd management needs to improve at the ground level,” said Shyam. 

HelpAge India has been assisting senior citizens to reach vaccination centres by helping them book free taxi rides. “But often even after booking a slot, they don't get the vaccine. The PHCs run out of the vaccine,” Shyam added.

Mateen Ansari, founder of Dobara — a senior citizen wellbeing network based in Hyderabad, has been trying to get 14 senior citizens vaccinated for the past week. The walk-in vaccination drive on May 8 did not yield results. “I sent a person to Banjara hills PHC, this person is registered but there are no slots available. So she walked in for the vaccine but didn’t get it,” said Mateen, who assists senior citizens like herself register for the vaccine. “Even after registration, we tried to contact individual PHCs for slots, but there are no vaccines.” 

At the SR Nagar PHC, Jayaprakash, a 59-year-old expressed concerns over not being able to procure the Covaxin vaccine of Bharat Biotech. This is the third PHC he has tried to get the second dose of Covaxin from. The state has claimed that 2.16 lakh doses of Covaxin will be available till May 15, but has not informed where they will be available. “I took my vaccine in March second week and am due for my second dose. The PHC asked me to come and try for second dose of Covaxin on May 15,” said Jayaprakash, as he walked away from the PHC. 

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