Lack of awareness stalls TN’s 24/7 vaccination centres

TE Raja Simhan Chennai | Updated on September 15, 2021

Get lukewarm response at night time due to poor public participation

It was 11 pm and the sprawling DMS Complex in Chennai wears a deserted look. Only the Department of Public Health (DPH) was lit brightly as the 24/7 vaccination service counter was still open. But not a soul was around.

No one comes to the centre after 10 pm for vaccination, said a security officer with DPH. A staff member first suggested to come in at 6 am. He had a valid reason – if one dose is given, the other nine in the vial would go waste if no one turns up thereafter. However, he added that it could still be given at the said time if one insisted.

Only then would the unused vials or those with unused doses be returned to the pharmacy and be discarded. The 24/7 Covid vaccination service centre in Tamil Nadu was launched on August 21. Touted to be the first such government-run clinic in the country, it was started to provide vaccinations round the clock. But the response has been lukewarm at night time due to the lack of awareness and patronage from the public, said an official.

In fact, the Centre had, in March, allowed States to provide vaccinations without time restrictions. But with vaccine supplies being stretched, the idea did not gain much traction.

At the huge Rajiv Gandhi Government Hospital in TN, the vaccination centre is situated nearly a kilometre from the entrance. The centre was open and staff on the first floor were ready to administer the vaccine, but there were not many takers at night, said the security guard.

Expansion mode

However, the poor response has not come in the way of the State government from expanding the number of 24/7 centres across the State to 77. More than 2.20 lakh persons have been vaccinated in these centres. This includes those who come in at night, though the number is very less, said an official.

“We would like to provide extended services to the public who have challenges in reaching the vaccination centre in time, though they are interested in getting vaccinated,” said TS Selvavinayagam, the Director of Public Health and Preventive Medicine. The response is good till 10 pm, but after that it is very limited, he added.

“It all started during a very casual conversation with my friends. We started the first one at our office in DPH, mainly for the convenience of people,” said Selvavinayagam, when asked how the idea of the 24/7 vaccination centre took off.

The idea to open a 24/7 vaccination centre was to ensure that vaccination is given to the public, especially office-goers and those unable to visit the centre during daytime, even if they come a little late than the scheduled time, said Selvavinayagam. Health Minister M Subramanian had said earlier that the facility would ensure that vaccines are available for those who are keen to travel to other States. In Chennai, all major government hospitals will have the service, and district hospitals, too will have it, he had said. While the government has created the facility it is up to the public to use it, said a government official.

Published on September 14, 2021

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