Covid: Supply worry sparks jab rush

The weekend witnessed the last few vaccination camps before June 21, the day from which the Centre had announced it would procure vaccines from manufacturers and send to the states. Not only is there uncertainty about future supply but the price factor also comes into play.

Private centres now have to cap their prices at Rs 780 for Covishield, Rs 1,410 for Covaxin and Rs 1,145 for Sputnik V jabs. This will include the Rs 150 service charge hospitals can levy, a figure they claim isn’t enough to cover costs of conducting outdoor camps.

“We at BA Block had initially approached another hospital for community vaccination but they were giving us a date after June 20. We didn’t want to take a chance. The second wave had hit BA Block cruelly and four or five residents have already succumbed to Covid in recent months,” said block president Snehasish Ghosal.

They went ahead with Techno Global Hospital and organised their camp on June 19 for 140 people. “After today’s camp, most residents will have got at least their first shot,” he said.

BK Block too held their camp for 150 people on the same day. “While we are aware of the June 21 notice, we were in talks for with Amri Hospitals since a month and a half back. This more or less covers all residents in the block and we shall hold another camp three months later for the booster dose,” said secretary Rajarshi Chanda.

Amri charged them Rs 950 per Covishield jab. “It’s true that the jabs will be cheaper after June 21, but at this point, no one cares for discounts. They just want to be safe as soon as possible and in a safe environment sans crowds. June 19 was the soonest we could offer this and residents rushed to sign up,” he said.

Price no factor

Kaushik Sarkar, general manager, Techno India Group, said price is not a factor for them. “We were initially charging Rs 1,000 for Covishield but from the day after the announcement was made — June 9 — we slashed our rates to Rs 780. We didn’t wait till June 21. We shall continue with community camps despite losses because of the price cap,” said Sarkar.

The hospital has stock that will last till the end of June. “We have placed fresh requisition for Covishield, Covaxin and Sputnik V but don’t know when they will arrive. Supply is critical and there is uncertainty. The first time around we got vaccines two months after placing orders,” Sarkar said.

Indranil Dam, who was in charge of the AMRI camp at BK Block, said there was a backlog even before June 21. “The camps happening today had made bookings between June 1 and 7 and this phase will continue till June 22. For the next phase, there is no clarity yet,” he said.

They are still getting calls for offsite camps, but “the craze of the first 15 days has reduced. Most people in Salt Lake, Rajarhat, Dum Dum and Sinthi are now inoculated,” Dam said. “The month of April was the game-changer. Before that people were scared of the vaccine or were taking it easy. After the second wave all want a jab.”

Sarkar agreed that the rush for vaccines was now on the wane. “Those who have the awareness have got their shots by now. These camps are mainly for the leftover elderly residents who could not travel to hospitals,” he said.

A camp organised by MLA Sujit Bose at Ward 31 office (between BF and CF Blocks) gave free jabs to 500 residents on June 22. ILS Hospitals was the medical partner. “Since yesterday we started capping our service charge at Rs 150 but it may be tough to cover the cost of logistics, especially in faraway camps like in Belur and Joka,” said senior manager of ILS Hospitals, Amith Saraf. “For now, we are doing four to five camps a day. Let’s see how things play out.”

Officials help out with formalities at the BK Block vaccination camp.

Personalised service

At BA Block, five nonagenarians turned up. At BK Block, volunteers fetched residents to the community hall. “It wasn’t possible for health workers to come door-to-door but it’s very kind of the volunteers to drive us here,” said 84-year-old Geeta Kanjilal, who got her jab sitting in neighbour Indraneel Sarkar’s car outside BK Block community hall.

AK Block hosted a vaccination camp on Saturday where 114 people were vaccinated. “This includes seven people who had mobility issues and were vaccinated at home. The vaccinators from AMRI were kind enough to agree to our request,” said block secretary Aritra Ranjan Sen.

Earlier, an elderly lady of CK Block was vaccinated at home by ILS Hospitals which gave the shots at a camp organised by Bidhannagar CK-CL Block Residents’ Association on June 7. “We kept a paramedic on watch for 30 minutes. A few elderly residents who were driven up to the community centre, the venue of the camp, were also vaccinated in their cars,” said Aruna Tantia, director of ILS Hospitals.

The AE Block Samaj Kalyan camp on Wednesday also arranged for Millennium Health Care nurses to give jabs to about five residents at home.

Additional reporting by Sudeshna Banerjee

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