The paucity of Covid vaccination centres, coupled with the district administration’s decision to allow walk-in vaccination for people above 40 years of age, has led to huge footfalls. The result often is a chaotic mess
For a city whose population now exceeds 12 million, Lahore currently has only five vaccination centres. Obviously, this is causing huge inconvenience to the people wanting to get the Covid-19 vaccine shots.
The locations of these vaccination centres are: Railway Dispensary, Model Town; LDA Sports Complex; Minar-i-Pakistan, Azadi Chowk; Expo Centre, Johar Town; Pakistan Liver and Kidney Institute (PKLI), Phase 6, Defence; and Police Lines, Qila Gujjar Singh. Of these, four are for the general public while the one at Qila Gujjar Singh is for the vaccination of the police personnel only.
Recently, walk-in facility vaccination has been started for all citizens above 40 years of age. The idea is to quickly achieve the target of mass immunisation. The district administration may be trying to facilitate every citizen coming in at the abovementioned centres, but the scenes of frenzy witnessed at these places show that there is an urgent need to increase the number of centres in the city.
On weekdays, the operations at the four centres (for general public) run fairly smoothly but Saturdays and Sundays are very busy. Huge footfalls are observed, especially at the Expo Centre, LDA Sports Complex and Minar-i-Pakistan.
The vaccination facility at the Expo Centre is the largest among them all — it boasts a huge parking lot, but if you visited it on a weekend, you’d not be able to find a place to move your car, let alone park up. You are condemned to wait in endlessly long queues of vehicles which will have a domino effect on the traffic in the adjoining roads and lead to greater snarl-ups.
Big footfalls are routinely causing a shortage of wheelchairs for the elderly and the disabled. What’s more, the shuttle service — from the parking to the vaccination centre and back — is also insufficient to accommodate a flood of visitors.
Mujahid Hussain, a resident of Faisal Town, says that he and his wife went to Expo Centre for vaccination on a Sunday and it took them over four hours to go through the entire process, starting from the hunt for space at the parking to finding a wheelchair and standing in the long queue for the computerised slip and so on.
When quizzed, a spokesperson for district administration told TNS: “A majority of the people have the time to visit [the vaccination centres] on weekends only. This results in a chaotic mess outside.”
The Expo Centre boasts a huge parking lot, but if you visited on a weekend, you’d not be able to find a place to move your car, let alone park up. You are condemned to wait in endlessly long queues of vehicles which will have a domino effect on the traffic on adjoining roads and lead to greater snarl-ups.
He adds that the Expo Centre has the capacity to comfortably deal with 300 people at a time. “On an average, the time it takes for a person to get the shot is 15 to 20 minutes.” However, he admits that on weekends it may take you up to an hour for the same procedure.
Another official claims that the number of visitors increased at the vaccination centres after the traumatic videos of corona patients in India became viral on social media. According to him, prior to these videos the vaccination process had been going smoothly. People are becoming increasingly scared of the complications that may come with the virus.
Other reasons for the rapid increase in visitors at the vaccination centres are the unavailability of privately imported vaccines such as Sputnik V. It is believed that even those who were earlier considering going for Sputnik V or waiting for Pfizer-BioNTech to become available in Pakistan, are now getting the SinoPharm jabs at the government-designated centres.
Add to it the fact that private hospitals are charging thousands of rupees per shot while the vaccination centres set up by the district administration are offering the vaccine free of cost.
A spokesperson for district administration says that the footfalls increased after the vaccination of citizens over 50 years of age was started, but the situation is now under control.
According to him, over 400,000 citizens of 50 years of age and above have already been vaccinated at the existing vaccination centres. The government has started registration of citizens of 40 years and above, for vaccination. In anticipation of greater load at the four designated centres in Lahore, the district administration plans to set up vaccination centres at 10 more locations in the city. These include Government Comprehensive Higher Secondary School, Ghoray Shah; Government School, Raiwind; Government Pilot Secondary School, Wahdat Colony; Government High School, Jallo Mor; Government High School, Kahna Nau; Government High School, Tajpura; and Government Islamia High School, Cantt.
The spokesperson advises the citizens to avail the offer at their nearest vaccination centre. “People should rest assured that the facilities provided at all centres are the same, be it Expo Centre or anywhere else. So, they should not consider changing their centres unnecessarily, as this can increase the load on one or two places,” he adds.
“Also, the people must schedule their visits [at the vaccination centers] during regular weekdays as the centres are open till late at night.”
The writer is a city reporter at The News