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Slum residents find it hard to get vaccinated due to lack of smartphones, digital illiteracy

Lack of digital literacy and unavailability of smartphones are proving major obstacles for slum residents, mostly domestic workers and daily wagers, to get vaccinated
By Leena Dhankhar, Gurugram
PUBLISHED ON MAY 30, 2021 10:49 PM IST

Lack of digital literacy and unavailability of smartphones are proving major obstacles for slum residents, mostly domestic workers and daily wagers, to get vaccinated.

The district health department earlier held walk-in vaccination camps in slums but suspended the process due to a shortage of vaccines and asked residents to register on the Co-WIN app to book vaccination slots. However, many said that they do not know how to access the portals and complained that the process is complicated.

Hasina Bibi, who lives in Tigra village and works as a domestic help, said that until she gets the jab, she will not be allowed to enter the residential societies where she works. This, she said, has made her family’s survival in the city difficult.

Bibi visited three primary health centres in the last 15 days but could not get vaccinated. “The officers at the primary health centre (PHC) asked me to register online, but I don’t have valid documents to upload. I will lose my job if I didn’t get my first vaccine dose as the resident welfare associations have strictly passed orders to produce vaccination certificate for entering the premises,” she said.

Many of the slum residents who are migrants and are working in the city, said they do not have Aadhaar cards and that their ration cards were issued in other states, due to which they were facing problems.

Regina Mandal, who lives in Badshahpur and works as a domestic help, said she was not able to get vaccinated despite making efforts on multiple occasions and is planning to return to her home town of Bagdogra in Siliguri of West Bengal to get vaccinated. “Firstly, the registration process is difficult and secondly, only limited people get vaccinated. Each time, they ask us to come back again, so we have dropped the plan,” she said.

Officials of the administration and health department said they are working on a plan to inoculate slum residents.

Dr Virender Yadav, the chief medical officer of Gurugram, said, “The government has been formulating guidelines for covering domestic helps and those who have no access to mobile and internet. It is likely that by the next week, guidelines will be issued.”

Yash Garg, Gurugram’s deputy commissioner, said that the access issues as well as vaccine shortage were raised with the state government and are likely to be resolved soon. “Due to shortage of vaccines, many people are unable to get vaccinated. The issues are not only at the state level but at the central level too and all are aware of the situation. We can’t make changes on the portal but can try to resolve the issue at the earliest,” he said.

However, in some slum clusters in Wazirabad, Bajghera, Chauma and Mullahera, the initial hurdle of vaccine hesitancy has not been overcome yet. “Most people here are not willing to get vaccinated because they have heard that there are side effects from the vaccines. My neighbour was vaccinated but still died due to Covid-19. Two more people who got their first dose were unwell for almost a week. We cannot take chances as all our family members are back in the village and we can’t risk our lives here,” said Bhure Lal, a Wazirabad resident who works at a construction site.

Domestic workers and support staff also sought help from their employers but to no avail as camps are yet to resume in residential areas. “It is important to get domestic helps, car cleaners and security guards vaccinated at the earliest as they could also be carriers and cause the transmission to residents or other staff in the area. We are trying to tie up with private hospitals to organise a camp for domestic helps and support staff,” said Rajeev Asthana, general secretary, Orchid Petals residents’ welfare association.

Amit Jind, the president of Vipul Greens RWA on Sohna Road, said that their security guards, domestic helps and ground staff is yet not vaccinated. “We have registered them on Co-WIN but they are yet to get a slot due to shortage of vaccines. We have restricted entries of help, drivers and other support staff in our society. The guards are delivering groceries which are brought by delivery boys to ensure minimum contact with outsiders,” he said, adding that the society is now Covid-free.

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