Friday, June 4, 2021

COVID-19 Vaccination Experience in Chennai

Booking a vaccination slot in India through the CoWIN portal was similar to booking a H1B Visa appointment in US Consulate (not sure if that has changed now!) or similar to booking the ticket for a FDFS (First day, First show) for a Rajini movie. Government of India (GoI) has developed this wonderful portal CoWIN - which is used for advertising vaccine availability, booking a vaccination appointment and for tracking the status of vaccination, in India. Having used multiple online services offered by Governments, I should say CoWIN is truly world class. It is fast, simple to use and works all the times. 

When GoI opened up vaccination for the 18+ category, I was the first few people to "register" in the CoWIN portal. However, when you open up the flood gates all of a sudden, the gushing water may even blow up the flood gate and that's exactly what happened when they opened the services for 18+ category. CoWIN crashed. I guess the IT team worked hard to fix the problem soon. In about an hour or so, I tried a few times and finally managed to register. Then started the fun - though the vaccination program was opened up for 18+, none of the hospitals or government health centres opened up the services for 18+. I didn't bother going to the CoWIN portal for the next 2 weeks. 

On 20th May, Tamilnadu government launched the vaccination program for the 18+ category people. A friend of mine walked to a UPHC (Urban Primary Health Care Center) near to her house in Ashok Nagar and got herself vaccinated. She was persuading me to get vaccinated soon. I was hesitant to leave home and travel long distance to get vaccinated due to the lockdown in Tamilnadu. That's when I learned from a friend that there is a Telegram Group (U45 Chennai) for getting notifications regarding the available vaccination slots, as soon as it gets published in CoWIN portal. Immediately I joined the group and was amazed by the volume of vaccinations done per day by the private hospitals in the city. However, by the time I saw those notifications and logged into the CoWIN portal, the slots would be full. It happened continuously for a day and then I realised that I have to be super quick. So, I increased the notification alerts volume in my phone and was keenly looking for a slot near my home. To my luck, I found a slot near to my house in a private hospital - the new MGM Hospitals. 

On the day of the vaccination, I drove my car to MGM, thinking that I can find a parking space. To my surprise, there was a long queue of parked vehicles on either side of the road. Roughly, some 100+ cars would be parked along the road side in Nelson Manickam Road. I couldn't imagine seeing so many cars parked along the road side on a regular day - but, due to the lockdown the roads were almost empty and hence, it benefited the people who came in their cars. I parked my vehicle outside and walked into the hospital for the first time. I was awestruck by the crowd. It appeared as if I walked into a cinema theatre. There were so many people (some 200+) waiting in queue and multiple security personnel managing the crowd. After doing the initial screening for temperature and filling some forms, they are escorting 10 people at a time on a lift to another floor. The lift opened its door into a ballroom. It was a large hall and there were some 50+ people sitting in that hall. One by one, people were asked to make payment, verify their personal information and were vaccinated. We were asked to wait in a lounge for about 20 minutes. The lounge looked like an open air cafeteria that you would see in IT parks - with a pantry area for coffee and snacks. I waited there for a few minutes and started going downstairs. Despite the huge crowd, in about 60 minutes, the whole process was over. I was amazed by the way in which MGM had organised the camp and speeded up the whole process. They charged Rs.950 for a Covishield vaccination. But, I felt that they still may not make a huge profit - given the number of employees they've deployed and the infrastructure/ambience of the hospital. For people, who are looking for a hassle free COVID vaccination, MGM hospital in Nelson Manickam Road is good. If you can afford it, you should consider getting vaccinated in a private hospital, so that Government's free vaccine can go to the poor and needy. After coming back home, I logged into the CoWIN portal to download my vaccination certification. 

Napoleon Hill once said "Victory is always possible for the person who refuses to stop fighting". The only weapon that we have in our fight against COVID-19 is the vaccination. I would strongly encourage everyone to take vaccination. We can fight COVID-19 only when most people get vaccinated. The second wave of COVID-19 snatched the lives of 3 of my dear friends. They were all healthy people - leading a happy life. But, COVID-19 came as a tsunami and shattered their families (and of course, friends). Their loss is irrecoverable. Dear friend... if you are reading this post, please get vaccinated asap. Even after vaccination, it is important that we follow the COVID-19 precautions such as social distancing, wearing masks and sanitising hands regularly.  Together, let us fight this evil virus and get it out of our community and country. 

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