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States struggle with strategies to vaccinate differently-abled

Rutam Vora Ahmedabad | Updated on June 18, 2021

People with disabilities are facing many logistical challenges   -  The Hindu

Drive-throughs, call centre pre-booking, home vaccinations are some options being tried

As India conducts the world’s largest Covid-19 vaccination programme, States and non-governmental organisations are struggling to administer the jab to people with disabilities (PWD) in the absence of a national strategy for this.

States are experimenting with walk-ins, a call centre to pre-book slots, home-vaccination and drive-throughs to ensure vaccine equity for the differently-abled.

Recently, Ahmedabad-based Blind People’s Association (BPA), in partnership with the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), conducted a one-of-its-kind drive-through vaccination session for the differently-abled. “We vaccinated about 580 people with disabilities in two days. We had deployed people who understood disabilities and could facilitate PWDs for the jabs,” says Bhushan Punani, executive secretary of BPA.

Soon after, a similar drive was conducted in Surat city while one is being planned at Bhuj, Kutch.

Mobility constraints

Punani describes how PWDs face varied difficulties, including with the registration online, commuting to a vaccination point and uncomfortably long waits at the inoculation centres. “With lower immunity and other complications such as need for frequent urination, emotional trauma of being at an unfamiliar place... it gets extremely uncomfortable for them,” he says.

India is estimated to have over 2.68 crore people with disabilities. Even after five months into the Covid-19 vaccination programme, there is no national strategy to address the challenges faced by PWDs. On May 27, the Health Ministry did adopt recommendations put forth by the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC) to ensure Near-to-Home Covid Vaccination Centres (NHCVC) for Elderly & Differently Abled Citizens.

Speaking to BusinessLine, RN Mohanty, CEO, Sightsavers India, pointed to the many logistical challenges faced by PWDs saying, “We have been talking to State governments to resolve these challenges and they are making all efforts to ensure vaccine equity. Major States including Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Odisha are covered by Sightsavers.

Helplines and FAQs

States like Tamil Nadu have their own model of vaccination programme for the disabled. To avoid the waiting period for the PWDs, the State has issued call centre numbers 18004250111 and 9700799993 to register and they would subsequently be informed about the time and place of vaccination.

Some developed countries have managed to ease the challenges faced by PWDs by putting in clear FAQs on their websites. Take the US’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has a special webpage for information on vaccination for PWDs.

In India, however, the FAQs or Dos& Don’ts on the COWIN portal has no specific mention or information on vaccination for PWDs.

Published on June 18, 2021

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