Covid-19 is on the rise in India, but vaccination is still slow

MUMBAI – India is racing to stop the second wave of coronaviruses, but their vaccination campaign is met with suspicions like Akbar Mohamed Patel.

A resident of Mumbai’s densely populated Dharavi slum, Mr. Patel survived a severe coronavirus in May. The first wave caused Mumbai officials to freeze his residence, detaining thousands of people for nearly two months.

However, the current campaign has been affected by slow initial government rollout, as well as skepticism and indifference from people like Mr. Patel and his neighbors. “On social media, we know that this is a big game to make money,” Patel said. Regarding vaccines, he said, “a lot of things are hidden.”

The coronavirus virus, once seemingly withdrawn, reappeared across India once again. Confirmed infections have risen to around 31,600 per day from as low as around 9,800 in February. During the last two weeks, the death toll increased by 82%.

The outbreak focused on the state of Maharashtra, the home of Mumbai, the country’s financial center. All counties of the state have returned to close. Scientists are investigating whether a new strain found is more virulent, like variants found in the UK, South Africa and Brazil.

Officials are under pressure from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to actively step up screening and vaccination, especially in Mumbai, to avoid disruptions such as last year’s severe nationwide shutdown and lead to decline. recession.

Dr Rahul Pandit, a key care physician at a private hospital in Mumbai and a member of the Maharashtra Covid-19 task force, said: “I am very adamant that we should stop it, stop it. , right here.

India’s immunization campaign can have global consequences.

Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was expected that UK supplies of Covid-19 would decrease due to a delay in delivery of 5 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine being made in India for nearly a month . The reason for the delay is unknown, but the manufacturer, India’s Serum Institute, says shipments will depend in part on India’s domestic demand.

India is an important link in the vaccine supply chain. Amid the US and other rich countries hoarding, India gave it away or sold it tens of millions of doses to other countries, even as it struggles to vaccinate its own people. Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar has said that the availability of the vaccine in India will determine the quantity of the vaccine to be released abroad.

While initially only vaccines were available in public hospitals, India is currently vaccinating in private clinics and interim immunization centers, and they are also considering offering them in pharmacies. Immunization hours have been extended, and eligible individuals can apply in person and receive their shots the same day, bypassing the online scheduling system.

Indian government is catching up. Since launching a nationwide vaccination two months ago, the uptake has been disappointing. Less than 3 percent of the population had to receive a hit, including about half of health care workers. At the current rate, it will take India about a decade to vaccinate 70% of its people, according to an estimate. By comparison, about a quarter of the US population has had at least one crash.

Not everyone in India has internet access required to register for an injection online. But the campaign has also been met with public skepticism. The government approved a locally developed vaccine, called Covaxin, before trials for its safety and effectiveness were even over, despite preliminary findings since. That shows it works.

Another vaccine available in India is the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which was suspended in a number of countries after some patients reported blood clots and stroke, though scientists did not. found a link between vaccination and pain.

Some quiet reactions can turn lethargic. A nationwide study published in February found that one fifth of Indians are likely to have Covid-19. City surveys show an even higher prevalence. The disease is just one of many diseases that make Indians worry, along with tuberculosis, dengue fever and avian flu. Many people are struggling to recover from the huge financial impact of the Indian shutdown last year and are unable to take a break from work to wait in line.

“These are word of mouth. Bread and butter depend on their daily routine. They can’t sit back and relax and wait until the wave moves, ”said Kiran Dighavkar, the Mumbai ward’s assistant commissioner including Dharavi. “They can’t afford quarantine, so the only option is to vaccinate these people as soon as possible.”

Health experts are encouraging Modi to do more, including giving vaccines to more people. Seniors, health care and frontline staff, and some people with a medical condition are currently eligible for the shot.

Dr. NK Ganguly, president of a medical research institute in New Delhi, said: “I will try to inject into the arm of every Indian who is 18 years or older, and I will do it now.

Get the 800,000 residents of Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum, to get vaccinated as crucial. Residents working to every corner of the city 20 million. Officials are reintroducing what was earlier in the pandemic what they call the Dharavi model: If the epidemic can be stopped there, transmission could be curbed citywide and even beyond. .

It won’t be easy, despite being only three miles away, a jumbo vaccination center is managing about 15,000 shots per day, for free.

Day and night, Dharavi is full of life. The stream of people spilled from the corrugated iron houses, piled up like matches, onto crowded streets, mostly unpaved, with loose wires. Animals slide between parked motorcycles and debris. Shops, tannery, and factories lie on the edge of churches and community toilets.

Abdul Razad Rakim, 61, a diabetic, said from the folding chair in front of the small apartment he shared with his wife, Shamim. “Why do we have to go?”

A short walk away, Janabai Shinde, a former janitor of the city health department, was squatting on the front steps, getting up every few minutes to spit red tobacco juice into the sewer.

“I walk in this lane. I sit here for the fresh air. I haven’t stepped out much since locked, ”said Miss Shinde. Her son, who works for the city, signed her up for one shot at an immunization center. She said she hopes her neighbors will join her.

“It is our benefit,” she said.

The Mumbai government has enlisted in aid groups to set up a help desk in Dharavi, where residents can ask questions and complete online registration to schedule free photo appointments.

Plans are underway to set up an immunization center in the slums and reopen an institutional quarantine center with thousands of beds, said Dighavkar, an assistant commissioner.

Last week, when Maharashtra recorded the highest number of new cases since September, the executive director of a disaster relief team gave a brief talk at Gold Filled Heights, an apartment complex with a large portion of the city. members of the Jain religious group, who run many jewels. businesses in Dharavi.

“We cannot let the virus spread again,” said CEO Shantilal Muttha. “If it spreads in Dharavi, it will become a threat to all of Mumbai and Maharashtra.”

Jyoti Shelar contributed to the report.

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