Vaccine slots for 18-44: some get them, some don’t

Covid-19 Health India Karnataka State

Jammu, Karnataka residents aged 18 to 44 years find it difficult to get vaccination slots. However, the vaccination drive in Odisha kicks off calmly.

Bangalore: If you open the CoWIN app, or Arogya Setu to register for the vaccine and get a shot, it is most unlikely to happen. You have to keep trying for hours at length to book a slot, and when the window finally opens, the site gets redirected to another page that shows all slots have been booked and asks you to wait for a week.

The 18 to 44 years cohort in Jammu has been running from pillar to post to get vaccinated, but have had little luck. A shortage of centers, vaccines and slots, as well as priority to the 45 and over age-group has put them at a disadvantage.

  • Districts across Jammu and Kashmir don't have vaccination slots available for the age group of 18 and above.

The Problem-

“I kept checking every second to see if the site is updated, but I’m not sure how often they update the numbers,” said Pratheeksha, who failed to get a slot for the vaccination in Mysuru. 

She continued, “I got one on May 14, 2021, and before I could confirm, I lost the slot. By the time I entered captcha properly and decided the time slot, it got booked.” Once you have booked  the slot, you are required to enter a captcha to proceed to the next step.

When a slot is available, it is usually far away from their homes and travel is not easy during the lockdown. Neel Sagar, a student, said, “I was lucky to get registered, but the location I got was almost two hours away from my house. I am fortunate to have a car, but people without a private vehicle find it difficult as there is a lockdown in the city and there’s no public transport.”

If you try the self-registration on the CoWIN website, you will get the OTP within seconds. But, if you try to do that on the CoWIN app, the OTP does not get sent to your mobile phone at all. 

Chirag tried to book a slot on May 1 when the government started the drive for this age group. He again tried on May 9 to book a slot, but couldn’t do it. Again, after a series of futile attempts, he could not book a slot. “I tried booking a slot at National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) but I could not do it as all the slots were booked in minutes. All slots are booked till May 15, 2021,” he said. 

Covid-19 vaccines are out of stock in many states across India.

Sahana Nagaraja also faced the same issue. When she tried to book a slot at the Kengeri Government Hospital, all slots were booked. “I had been trying for hours, and it did not happen, I don’t know when I will be able to book a slot,” she said. 

Sheetal Rao registered as soon as they opened the drive on May 10. She did not get a slot. “I have registered, but I have not been able to book a slot. Everything is already booked. There is only one centre (The Mandya Institute of Medical Sciences) for my age group, and there are a couple of centres in the outskirts, but none of them is closer to the city,” she said. 

Maheshwari opened the website at 4:15 pm on Sunday, May 9, as soon as the booking started from 4 pm. “I could see that all slots were booked for the next two weeks, and all of this happened within minutes,” she said. Channapatna has only one vaccination centre, and even though there are many centres administering vaccines in the Ramanagara district, slots are all booked. 

Hassan Institute of Medical Sciences (HIMS) is the only centre in the Hassan district that administers vaccines for this age group. Mekhala had not been able to get a slot for the last three days. “They open the registration for only half an hour between 2 pm and 2:30 pm every day, and you have to book a slot in thirty minutes, and it seems impossible to get it,” she said.

Many people have complained on Twitter that slots are getting booked through third party servers since they are getting booked within seconds.

Here’s the process for registering for the vaccination drive- a guide for you. Credits: Sindhu Nagraj

“The government should have opened the vaccination drive for the 18-44 years age group in a phased manner. They should have started from 44, and should have gradually come down opening up looking at the vaccine availability,” said Chandrakant Laharia, a public health expert. “The government should work towards securing supply, and unless there is enough supply, they should not give hope to the people that they would be vaccinated soon. This wait-and-watch approach is not helping anybody,” he added.

People who made their way in-

However, some people did manage to book the slot too. Sumukha Gargesh, a techie, got a slot for May 16, 2021. “I had not even registered on CoWIN, I did it only after all the slots were booked. When I opened the portal, only Hunsur and Nanjangud taluk Primary Health Centre (PHC)s were left. I considered booking in Nanjangud, but at this time I was sceptical of going  beyond the city limit ,” he said. 

In Mysuru, only two hospitals in the outskirts are catering to this age group. Charaka Hospital, and Mysore District Hospital both on the Krishnaraja Sagar (KRS) Road. “After three attempts, I decided to give one last try, and I got it at the District Hospital for May 16,” he added. 

Pratheeksha feels it was sheer luck that got Sumukha a slot, and she did not. When the drive started on May 10, it was delayed by at least a couple of hours because of the delay in the arrival of vaccines from Bengaluru. The state government has allotted 8,500 doses of CoviShield and CoVaxin to Mysuru district, but none of the slots opened in the city is administering CoVaxin. 

When a slot is available, it is usually far away from their homes and travel is not easy during the lockdown. Neel Sagar, a student, said, “I was lucky to get registered, but the location I got was almost two hours away from my house. I am fortunate to have a car, but people without a private vehicle find it difficult as there is a lockdown in the city and there’s no public transport.”

The Government’s Take-

The government has mandated that for this phase, people cannot get vaccination administered through walk-in registrations. It should be registered on the portal.

Dr Ravi, Nodal Officer for COVID-19 vaccination in government hospitals in the Mysuru district, said in an interview that the fresh stock of doses of both vaccines arrived on Monday, May 10, to be given for the beneficiaries in the district. “The vaccination has been going on in all Government facilities and selected private hospitals. This stock is sufficient to vaccinate people in Mysuru for the next 8-10 days”, he added.

Chief Minister of Karnataka BS Yeddyurappa symbolically flagged the third phase (18-44 years) of vaccination drive on May 1, 2021. But given the shortage of vaccines across the state, they did not start the drive until May 10, 2021.

The Jammu and Kashmir administration said that the COVID-19 vaccination drive for the 18-45 will  not be prioritised until vaccine supply is fully established in the UT.

Data compiled by: Goutham Balsamy

The Reason-

Dr. Anil Mahajan, a physician, said, “The vaccines that are coming in are first prioritised for the 45+ age bracket. People aged 18-44 are not as exposed and vulnerable as people aged 45 and above, which is why this procedure is being followed.”

“The registrations of all age groups take place first, then the vaccine is divided amongst them. Most of the vaccines are going to the 45+ age group,” added Dr. Anil Mahajan.

The Other Side: Odisha, the state with no chaos in the Vaccination Drive

People waiting for their vaccination turn at Sub-Divisional hospital, Panposh, Rourkela.

The vaccination drive for people between the age of 18 and 44 years started without many glitches today in five urban centres of Odisha – Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Rourkela, Sambalpur and Berhampur. 

Aman Singh, who got the shot of CoviShield at Rourkela Government Hospital (RGH) today, said the vaccination process at his centre was being carried out in an orderly manner. He said, “People who didn’t have their timings slotted for today, weren’t allowed to go in. Police personnel were also deployed so there was no possibility of any ruckus.” 

Pratikshya Mitra, 23, a college student got her shot of CoviShield at ESI Hospital. She said, “My mother went with me to the vaccination centre. A police officer asked her to stand somewhere else so it doesn’t get crowded unnecessarily.”

Sanjiban Sengupta, another citizen who also got a shot of CoviShield at Ispat General Hospital (IGH) said the documents were verified first, then people were called. “All of us were seated in the Nehru Outpatient Department (OPD) in four rows of seats. COVID-19 protocols were followed strictly,” he said. 

Sengupta later said that people with other time slots were given the vaccination in the rehabilitation ward. 

Priyanka Patra, 30, a User Interface designer said the facility at the vaccination centre was well organised. “Seniors officials were continuously checking that all of us are following the required COVID-19 protocols,” she added.

The vaccination exercise in Rourkela has been announced for alternative days. The vaccines will be administered to the 18-44 age group on May 11, 13, 15, 18, 20 and 22.  

Health Department Additional Chief Secretary PK Mohapatra had informed that the prioritisation was being done due to low supply of vaccines.

Even though the vaccination for above 18 years had begun from May 1, people in this age group category were vaccinated with Covaxin shots only in Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation area so far.

The government has mandated that, for this phase, people cannot get vaccination administered through walk-in registrations. It should be registered on the portal. These five cities in the state have the highest test positivity rate (TPR) in the state.

Inputs from- Arunaditya Aima, Sindhu nagraj, Prachi Ghosh, Gowtham Balsamy, Kritika Mehta

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