The BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had turned many of its jumbo Covid centres into jumbo jab facilities as it ramped up the drive to get seniors inoculated first. The centre at Dahisar (east) had a naturally shaded tree lined pavement where the line snaked for those who had taken ‘forenoon’ appointments on the Cowin app. But walk-ins were also in the same queue and no one complained. Nor did the elderly, including some men who held places chivalrously for their wives who waited in their vehicles. The men discussed how well India was actually handling the vaccination drive and the aim should be to inoculate the entire population.
The chit-chat among strangers also had an air of a calm expectancy. There was no agitation nor any whining among the elderly as they stood, the chairs were available only once they entered through the gates into the giant white pandals.
Inside too, once they showed their IDs, there was another queue leading up to the large main tent, but it was carpeted. For those who wanted a wheelchair, attendants were quick to get one.
Inside too, the process continued to be smooth and orderly as the seniors shuffled slowly in a line, but the civic staff handling the paper work were brisk and professional. Each senior citizen was asked if she or he had any allergies, recent illnesses, surgeries, medicines. They then moved to the table where more digital and paper entries were made, those who were walk-ins were registered by the staff, those who already had ‘appointments’ were verified. That done, the last step of the actual shot took less than a minute, delivered swiftly with a reassuring smile and bit of jovial jabber and then serious advice of not icing or putting any hot water bag on the spot. The masked staff went about it efficiently, effortlessly at the centre.
The 60-plus lot then was told to wait for half an hour to make sure no adverse reactions emerged.
What was evidence was that the senior citizens were most disciplined, obedient candidates. One young civic doctor Shah Rukh they were mostly quiet and large number of attendants inside to help wheel them around helped. The staff may reduce once the vaccinations open up to other age groups.
Many sat patiently on numerous white bedsheet covered beds, lined in multiple rows. Some, like Lallan Singh a retired DGM, lay down and read the day’s paper, Nav Bharat Times which he said he had carried from home. Others like Chandrakant Shah, 89 and wife Vasumati, 80 sat with their son Paresh patiently talking softly among themselves, like many others, still others used the time to pose for and take selfies for family social media groups.
The centre gave a Covidshield shot. Within minutes of receiving it, it appeared to already have bolstered the spirit of many. A giant photo frame propped at the end of the jumbo tent saw some standing and getting clicked to show their first shot was done.
There were clearly more smiles all around and a sense of lightness in them. “I feel emboldened now to meet people and less scared of the whole pandemic now,”’ said one sitting in a wheelchair, an attendant hovering around attentively.
The grey haired brigade was definitely feeling more positive, once the jab was done.
Maybe the crowd was less that day and there was hardly any glitch, but in an hour, the seniors were out of the tent, heading back home, busy sharing happy photos of shots successfully taken and answering with greater authority on the process questions from their pals from senior citizens clubs.