Govt plans to open vaccination points in schools, community centres to ramp up coverage
To ramp up the Covid-19 vaccination drive in the national capital and to cover more people, the Delhi government has asked districts to identify more locations for vaccination sites. The district administrations have proposed to open new sites at community centres, government schools and offices, according to a senior revenue department official.
The inoculation drive was opened up to all above the age of 45 on April 1. There are nearly 45 lakh people between the ages of 45 and 59 years living in Delhi, according to health minister Satyendar Jain. The government has set a target of 40 days to immunise them all, necessitating the expansion of infrastructure. There are nearly 600 vaccination sites in Delhi hospitals and dispensaries currently. Initially, when the vaccination drive had started in January, the government was planning to set up at least 1,000 vaccination centres in a phased manner. Officials said they are yet to take a call on how many new ones will be set up in community centres and schools, among others.
At least 1.1 million people in Delhi have received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine since the drive began on January 16, including those above the age of 60 years and those above 45 with 20 specified comorbidities.
Currently, Delhi is vaccinating about 30,000 people, on average, daily. But with cases rising once again, officials said there is a need to cover as many people as possible in each age segment in the shortest possible time. On Friday, Delhi reported 3,594 fresh cases of Covid-19 and 14 deaths, as per the state health bulletin.
The Delhi government has also ordered all vaccination centres in Delhi – both government and private – to remain open on all days, including Sundays and gazetted holidays, in pursuance to a directive from the Centre.
A detailed proposal with information on cold chain linkages, available manpower and nearby hospitals -- for treating anyone who suffers an adverse event -- will be sent to the health department. The matter was discussed in a meeting of the district officials on Wednesday.
“So far, Delhi was immunising people in hospitals and dispensaries. However, to increase the pace of vaccination, there is a need to increase the number of inoculation centres and bring them closer to the people. This is the reason the district officials have been asked to identify community centres and schools that have appropriate space and linkages. Once that is done, immunisation can start at these locations after the health department is satisfied with the facilities,” said a senior official from Delhi’s health department, on condition of anonymity.
There will be no need to seek approval from the Centre for setting up the new centres. “The Central government guidelines on vaccination already allow immunisation in spaces such as community centres and schools; no additional permission would be needed,” the official said.
As per the guidelines of the Union health ministry, any vaccination site should have three rooms – waiting room, vaccination room and observation room. The vaccination room must have vaccine carriers or ice packs to store vaccines at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, hand sanitisers and masks, vaccine vial opener, anaphylaxis kit, and appropriate bags and containers for disposing biomedical waste. Both the waiting and observation rooms must have adequate seating area to ensure social distancing.
“We have started the survey to identify such facilities and will complete this in a day or two. In areas where there are no government dispensaries, we are looking at community centres or government schools and office. The sites are being identified as per the criteria set by the central government, which mandates that the facility should have three rooms. We are also looking at its proximity to the cold chain points in our districts,” said a district magistrate, who asked not to be named.
District officials say one of the main challenges before them is to ensure vaccination of people living in unauthorised colonies and slums. Districts such as Shahdara, north-east, north-west, south, and east have a large number of unauthorised colonies and slums. Officials said these are densely populated areas and, in a majority of cases, don’t have government-run medical facilities nearby.
“The idea is to increase the base of vaccination in these uncharted areas. We want people to walk up to the vaccination centre, but for that we need to provide facilities near their areas of residence,” said a subdivisional magistrate, also on condition of anonymity.
The central Delhi district has the densely populated Walled City area where officials are looking at government schools and offices to be used as vaccination centres.
Officials at the central district said they are currently organising registration camps and are also providing vans to take people to government-run facilities for vaccination. “With more centres opening in the area, it will be easier to get more people to the centre. Moreover, new centres are needed to cater to the increase in load as now anyone over the age of 45 is allowed to get vaccinated,” said a senior Central district official, asking not to be named.
“In addition to the government creating capacity for vaccination, it is important to address vaccine hesitancy among people, due to all the wrong messages that are going around on social media. Then, there are reports of adverse events such as clotting happening with the AstraZeneca vaccine, whose Indian variant Covishield is being administered to most people. When it comes to taking the shot, people are perturbed and scared by such news,” said Dr Rajesh Chawla, serion consultant of pulmonology at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals.
He said, “The government is currently focussing on those who are at the highest risk of dying. However, it is the younger people who are stepping out and getting the infection currently. We have to start vaccinating them too.”