1. Home

Dr. Driving

MEERUT: Finding vaccine slots on CoWin has been a grind in Delhi, which has been facing an acute shortage.

Right next door in UP, however, several vaccine slots remain untouched in many areas. The answer to their problems, desperate vaccine-seekers in Delhi figured, was to find those areas on CoWin. So now, residents of Delhi-NCR are driving down to Meerut, Shamli and even faraway Mathura for their shots, filling “80% of the slots”.

^I tried for days but couldn¨t find an opening for my second shot of Covaxin, ̄ Vikas Mathur, 33, an engineer from east Delhi, told TOI. ^A friend suggested that I try a few cities in UP. The Delhi-Meerut Expressway has made it easier to get there. So, I chose Meerut, ̄ he said. There were a number of open slots on CoWin. He booked his within minutes and on the day he had been assigned, drove down 80km to his centre at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Agricultural University on the outskirts of Meerut, and got his second shot in time. ^It was simple. ̄

The primary reason for this rush is that while the prescribed gap between two Covishield doses is 84 days, that for Covaxin is four to six weeks. Those who got the first shot are scrounging for the second.

Like Vijay Dhankad from Sonipat, in his mid-20s, who had received the first shot of Covaxin and had to take the second. Time was running out. After incessant efforts to get a slot for his second dose of Covaxin failed, he looked around and found openings in Shamli, about 80km away. ^The vaccine drive is a national exercise. There should not be any problem about who is getting the vaccine where, ̄ he said.

On Twitter, too, there are accounts of Delhiites on a hunt for cities and towns with vaccine slots. ^I found and booked a slot for 2nd dose of Covaxin at Meerut … I have 36 hours to decide should I drive so far or wait for vaccine to be available in Delhi before 16th of June which is the last date I can book a slot on Cowin for my second dose, ̄ tweeted a Delhi-based user JS Duggal.

The trend has picked up but there is uncertainty about this workaround among UP officials. ^At least 70-80% slots here are being booked by residents of Delhi and Haryana between the ages of 18 and 44 for the second dose, ̄ Meerut district immunisation officer Dr Praveen Gautam said.

Delhiites are also trying their luck in Mathura, 180km away. ^At least 60-70 people from Delhi and Rajasthan are visiting the district for vaccination every day, ̄ additional chief medical officer of Mathura Dr Rajiv Gupta. ^We are trying not to vaccinate outsiders. The state government has bought vaccines and our priority is those from our own state. ̄

Meerut district surveillance officer Dr Ashok Taliyan pointed to the rural-urban divide and said, ^They (Delhi residents) have access to high-speed internet. Rural areas don¨t, and are struggling with vaccine hesitancy. ̄

Bulandshahr chief medical officer Dr Avtosh further said, ^A large number of slots remain unbooked in rural areas also because many don¨t know how to use CoWin and several don¨t have smartphones. ̄ These empty slots are quickly snapped up. Taliyan added, ^Delhi residents are also Indian citizens. They have booked their slots using a national app. How can we say no to them? ̄