Mumbai: At a time when the Maharashtra government and the Centre are yet to reach a consensus on door-to-door Covid vaccination drives, the administration of Pimpri-Chinchwad, a satellite city of Pune, has already gone knocking on doors to administer vaccine doses to about a hundred people who are confined to their beds. The city administration is also using a version of the approach to battle vaccine hesitancy in slums.
The Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) started door-to-door vaccinations for its bedridden population or those with mobility issues last month.
Rajesh Patil, municipal commissioner, PCMC, told ThePrint, “We have an app called ‘Me Zababdar’ (I am responsible) on which we ask bedridden people to first register for vaccinations. We then schedule several such cases together on a single day, to manage the logistics and get them vaccinated.”
Namdeo Dhake, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) corporator and leader of the house in the PCMC, said, “We have mobile vaccination vans that we have been using to vaccinate the bedridden people in our city. We have vaccinated a hundred people with mobility issues through our door-to-door drive so far. People are very happy that the corporation is reaching out to them.”
The PCMC’s initiative came at a time when the Bombay High Court has been hearing a petition filed by two advocates seeking directions to the Union government to start door-to-door vaccinations for senior citizens, the specially-abled and the bedridden. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Maharashtra government had said that they can start home vaccinations for those with mobility issues, but will need the Centre’s approval for it. The high court had also questioned the Centre on why the drive couldn’t be started.
The Union government had earlier said door-to-door vaccinations cannot be permitted due to reasons such as vaccine wastage and the risk of adverse reactions. On Wednesday, the Maharashtra government told the high court that it won’t wait for central approval to start it’s door-to-door vaccination drive on an experimental basis.
Meanwhile, Dhake told ThePrint that the PCMC didn’t seek permission from either the state or the Central government before starting its door-to-door vaccination drive.
Hyper local camps in slums
The PCMC has also started a pilot project to hold hyper-local vaccination camps for every few houses in a slum and going door-to-door to convince slum dwellers to step out of their house and get their shots at almost their doorstep.
The pilot project took off earlier this week in Khandevasti, a slum sprawl of about 3,000 people, in the ward of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) corporator Seema Savale. In just two days, 300 people from the slum were vaccinated. Later, 100 people from another slum, Balajinagar, were also similarly vaccinated, said Savale.
Speaking to ThePrint, Savale said, “There is extreme hesitancy in the slums. People believe that if they take the vaccine, they will die. Earlier, we would wait for a week for people to come forward and get vaccinated, but despite extensive campaigning and awareness drives, hardly 30-40 persons from the slum came forward.”
Savale raised the issue of poor vaccination numbers in slums in the PCMC’s general body meeting last month, and suggested a doorstep approach to boost the numbers.
“The administration tags these very people, who work as daily wage earners, hawkers, shop keepers, domestic help and so on as superspreaders, but doesn’t offer any special measures to reach out to vaccinate them. I raised the point that with extreme hesitancy and superstitions among slum dwellers to get vaccinated, there is no alternative but to take vaccines to their doorsteps,” Savale said.
“The administration gave the go ahead and decided to start with the slums in my ward on a pilot basis,” she added.
Accordingly, the administration has been setting up small vaccination camps for every 100-200 houses in the slums in Savale’s ward.
“People from slums don’t want to move out and travel to a vaccination centre. They don’t want to invest time away from work and their chores in getting the vaccine. We are setting up camps in strategic location within the slums so that if someone steps out of their house, they will be able to spot the camp. This way, we can even call out to them and convince them to join the queue for the shots,” said Savale.
The twin towns of Pimpri and Chinchwad, under the PCMC’s jurisdiction, are prominent industrial centres in the Mumbai-Pune belt. The area is known as an automobile and IT hub, with companies such as Tata Motors, Force Motors, Bajaj Auto, and IT companies such as Infosys, Wipro, KPIT Cummins and others setting up offices here.
The civic administration has been aggressively trying to push its vaccination numbers, even going to the extent of warning its employees to get vaccinated before 20 July or face salary cuts.
According to the civic body, Pimpri-Chinchwad has a population of 20 lakh. The city has so far administered about six lakh Covid vaccine doses.
Vaccinations in PCMC’s slums, which comprise about 1.5 lakh of the total population, have been negligible so far, said Savale.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)