Vaccine inequity: Two-dose mandate for train travel will force people to get paid jabs | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Vaccine inequity: Two-dose mandate for train travel will force people to get paid jabs

ByJyoti Shelar, Mumbai
Aug 11, 2021 07:27 PM IST

Mumbai has administered over 7.6 million doses with only 1.9 million people fully vaccinated as of Wednesday. Of them, around 140,000 people in the 18 to 44 age group who form a substantial percentage of working, mobile population.

The mandate of being fully vaccinated to travel in Mumbai local trains has put a spotlight on the inequitable distribution of doses in Mumbai and rest of Maharashtra. Many commuters, who are in need to travel in local trains, will be denied access as they are still waiting to get the jabs. With limited doses available in the public sector, this mandate will also push people to get paid doses at private hospitals.

The government has allowed people who have received both the doses to travel in local trains. (HT)
The government has allowed people who have received both the doses to travel in local trains. (HT)

“On one hand, the government has restricted travel to fully-vaccinated people and on the other hand, people willing to get vaccinated are struggling to find doses,” said Bhayander resident Shailesh Goyal, a member of the Zonal Rail Users Consultative Committee. “The shortage of vaccines in the public sector is unfair to lakhs of commuters who will be denied access. In a way, the government is forcing them to get vaccinated from private sector,” he said.

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Maharashtra has been reeling under a severe shortage of Covid-19 vaccines. Shortages have been recorded on multiple occasions since the nationwide vaccination drive began on January 16. For instance, last month, public sector vaccination drives in Mumbai were cancelled on five days due to shortage of doses, in addition to four Sundays when public vaccination drive remains officially closed. The private sector, on the other hand, has an estimated stock of around 1 million doses.

This month, Mumbai civic body had to hold vaccination drives only at limited centres on three occasions due to severe shortage of doses. The last batch of 45,000 doses was received by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on Saturday and most centres were waiting to open their slots on Wednesday hoping to receive some doses.

Mumbai has administered over 7.6 million doses to date. Around 9 million people aged above 18 years are eligible to get Covid-19 vaccine, but only 1.9 million or 21% have been fully vaccinated as of Wednesday. Only around 140,000 people in the 18 to 44 age group are fully vaccinated.

“The 18-44 age group largely consists of the working, mobile population. Due to the vaccine shortfall, many of them will not be able to access local trains,” said Goyal, adding that the Central government should have distributed enough vaccines to states like Maharashtra where cities have a lot of dependence on public transport.

Epidemiologist and health systems expert Dr Chandrakant Lahariya said the two-dose mandate for local trains is very restrictive, considering the fact that only a small percentage of the population is fully vaccinated. “The government can consider allowing those who have had the Covid-19 infection. Also, people who have taken one shot can be considered for local train travel, as it means they are committed to taking the second dose,” he said.

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