The Dharavi vaccination centre received a lukewarm response on its first day with only 64 slum dwellers vaccinated against a target of 1,000. Amid rising Covid-19 cases and pressure to encourage vaccination among slum dwellers, health workers in Dharavi are racing between contact tracing of new cases and door-to-door counselling to increase vaccination.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation last week had planned to set up a vaccination centre close to the slum pockets of Dharavi after it realised that the uptake of vaccines from slum dwellers across the city is less than desirable.
On Monday, a BMC van roamed in narrow lanes of the slum with a loudspeaker, announcing about the new vaccination hub at the urban health centre, known as “Chhota Sion Hospital”. While few locals agreed to visit the centre to get vaccinated on hearing the announcement, others were met by community health workers (CHWs) at their door-step for counselling. Some residents received text messages from local corporators and opted to get the jabs.
Ranganath Garud, a 70-year-old from the Matunga labour-camp, said he wanted to get vaccinated but was scared. “The local corporator told me that Dharavi has opened a centre and the vaccine is safe. So I decided to come today,” Garud added.
Health officials at the centre offered juice in the post-vaccination room, took extra few minutes to counsel the beneficiaries about the possible adverse events of vaccination and shared all helpline numbers in case of an emergency.
“We are taking extra care here as one bad experience on the part of a beneficiary can spoil the entire drive. I have asked all nurses to explain the entire vaccination process to all recipients and address all their anxieties,” said Dr Aafreen Khan, in-charge at the centre.
Dr Ashutosh Gupta, medical officer at Shastri Nagar health post, said they raised awareness about vaccination two days before the centre opened. “Even if people turn up without a co-morbidity certificate, we ask them about medication and make one for them,” he said.
As Ashok Gopal (69) felt giddy after his jab in the afternoon, a team of three health workers promptly reached him, offered juice and checked his vitals. “His vitals are normal. It is probably the heat that made him giddy. But if we don’t show promptness in checking them, they may feel these are the vaccination’s side effects,” said Dr Ramita Rathore.
According to the My Family My Responsibility survey data, at least 6,000-7,000 people in Dharavi are aged above 60 years or fall in the age group of 45-59 with co-morbidities.
From Tuesday, G-North ward officials will pursue an aggressive approach. They will reach out to WhatsApp groups of private doctors, residential societies and associations to spread awareness about the centre. G-North Health Officer Dr Virendra Mohite said they have roped in five corporators in the ward. “Their office will act as registration centres and their staff will help people prepare medical certificates, if needed,” he added.
NGO Bharatiya Jan Sangathana will set up 10 booths in the slum to help people register themselves on CoWIN app and collect documents as proof for co-morbidities. The CHWs will start visiting houses to counsel people and dispensaries have been directed to counsel patients who come for routine ailments.
Medical Officer Dr Vishal Kolte said he has 21 CHWs, who will have to multi-task between routine immunisation, Covid immunisation, contact tracing and regular health program work. “It is a challenging task and we have urged local doctors to join us and volunteer at vaccination centres,” he added.