Padma Ranganathan, a 100-year-old woman who can’t walk due to her age and physical disability lives in N Block in Saket, a posh colony in South Delhi.
Just about a few hundred meters away from her house is Max Super Speciality Hospital where vaccination drive is going on in full swing.
Ranganathan’s daughter, Dr Reena Ramachandran, has been requesting the hospital staff to vaccinate her mother at home as she is not only a centenarian but paraplegic too.
“The hospital staffs are nice and courteous but they say that the state government norm doesn’t allow them to vaccinate anyone at home,” Dr Ramachandran said.
She adds, “Even if somehow we manage to take her to the hospital in an ambulance, there is a high probability that she can pick the infection. It is life-threatening for her.”
Outlook spoke to many hospitals who said that their hands are tied up because the Union Health Ministry’s circular doesn’t allow them to conduct door-to-door vaccination.
“Even the state governments cannot do anything if the Centre’s Circular doesn’t allow home vaccination. The Union Health Ministry needs to bring changes in its policy,” a doctor from a private hospital, which is part of the ongoing vaccination drive, said.
Dr Satendra Singh, Organisational Head, Doctors with Disabilities: Agents of Change, a pan-India organisation of health professionals with disabilities, blames both the Centre and the state government for not relaxing norms for home vaccination for the disabled or those who are vulnerable to infection.
Dr Singh has sent an e-mailed to the Health Minister and Social Welfare Minister of Delhi to vaccinate elderly and disabled persons at home by launching a door-to-door vaccination drive.
“Following media outrage and subsequent suo moto cognisance of those published media reports, Delhi Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, directed Divisional commissioner to set up dedicated COVID Vaccination Centres for persons with disabilities in all eleven revenue districts.” Dr Singh wrote in an email.
“Unfortunately, there is no clarity, with some recommending vaccination for those aged 45 and above and others stating that those aged 18 and up will be addressed later,” he added.
The Union Health Ministry asked the States/UTs on May 27, 2021, to follow its guidelines for Near to Home COVID Vaccination Centres (NHCVC) for Elderly & Disabled people. The guidelines aim to promote the community-based approach in non-health facility-based settings and which are nearer to home, for instance, a community centre, RWA centre/office, panchayat ghar, school buildings, old age homes, etc.
Dr Singh says the guidelines are still too ambitious and many people with severe disabilities or the elderly may still be unable to access these services outside of their homes, and they must not be forgotten.
He argues that rule 19(2) of the Delhi Rights of Persons with Disabilities Rules, 2018 requires the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi to develop schemes to assist persons with benchmark disabilities with High Support Needs (HSN).
Dr Singh also wrote, “Gender dysphoria in public places, lack of government identification cards, historical abuse in medical establishments, poor internet access, misinformation, and stigma are the key factors disproportionately affecting their health care as well as vaccine acceptance.”
“Rather than reducing existing disparities, we are creating new disparities by digital divide and emphasis on CoWIN App/website. Both Assam and West Bengal have initiated priority vaccination drive for transgender people,” Dr Singh added reiterating his demand to launch a door-to-door vaccine drive for the marginalized population.