Crowds at vaccination booths can further spread Covid infections, health experts warn

If they introduce a token system in vaccination booths, there will be much less crowd and people won't have to stand in queues for hours, says Dr Sameer Mani Dixit.

Prasun Sangroula

  • Read Time 3 min.

Kathmandu: Although the vaccination campaign for Covid-19 is progressively taking place, getting vaccinated is not as easy as it should be. The unmanaged system and a long queue in the vaccination booths have created a lot of hassles for the citizens to get the jabs, apart from raising the real risks for the people to be infected from the vaccination booths themselves. 

Binda Khatiwada, 83, who hails from Biratnagar, stood in a queue for four hours to get vaccinated. Senior citizens are supposed to have easier access to vaccination because they are not able to stand in queues for hours and because of age and vulnerability. But this was not meant to be for senior citizens like Khatiwada and many others like her.  

“There were many other senior citizens like me who stood in a queue to get vaccinated for hours, bearing the intense heat of Biratnagar,” said Khatiwada. As a senior citizen she had expected she would get the vaccine easily but the scene in the vaccination booth was different. “It was a total mess, completely unmanaged,” she said.  

For a moment, Khatiwada was worried and afraid that she could get infected from the vaccination booth itself. “It was such a long queue, and there were so many people who were pushing and pulling,  touching each other,” she said. 

She had a hectic day. 

Sunita Chaudhary, 23, of Swayambhu, Kathmandu has gone through the same kind of ordeal. She went to Manmohan Hospital to get the jab, where she stood in a queue for six hours–from 7AM to 1PM. All in vain. 

While Chaudhary, along with many others, was standing in the queue an official from the hospital told them that there are no more vaccines left. “After six hours of standing in the queue, he came and said they ran out of vaccines,” she said. She returned home without getting vaccinated, sad and frustrated. 

“They could have informed us earlier but they did not. They made us wait and stand for hours,” she said. “They ruined my whole day. How can they be so irresponsible?” 

Both Khatiwada and Chaudhary urged the concerned authority to run vaccination campaigns properly and systematically. 

There are many others like Khatiwada and Chaudhary who are compelled to struggle for vaccination due to the unmanaged system in the vaccination booths. Almost all the vaccination booths have a long queue of service seekers. They are not sure whether they will get the shot until they get it.

On Monday, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba inspected the vaccination center at Kupondole of Lalitpur Metropolitan City-1. There he said that managing the Covid-19 vaccines to all Nepalis is the major priority of the government. “The government has already directed the concerned authority for an easy availability of vaccines,” he said.

It is getting late for the health authorities to ensure that everyone gets the jab without having to stand in crowded queues, for hours on end.

Health experts are worried that the crowds and chaos in the vaccination booths could become a potential source of the further spread of the virus. 

According to Dr Sameer Mani Dixit, public health expert, the vaccination campaigns are not being managed properly. He says that the crowds standing in long queues to be vaccinated can increase the chances of getting infected.  

Dr Dixit offers a solution to this problem. According to him, instead of designating hospitals as vaccination booths, the government could start vaccinating people from the ward offices. “But there should be enough vaccination desks in each booth,” he said. “If they introduce a token system, there will be much less crowd and people won’t have to stand in queues for hours,” he added.  

With that, he said, security personnel should be strictly deployed in every booth so that the campaigns take place effectively without breaching any safety protocols.

“Hospitals include other patients and visitors as well and they can be affected by those unmanaged crowds, so the hospitals are not a right place to conduct vaccination campaigns,” he added.