India holds vaccination drive for people with disabilities

Organisers aim to vaccinate 500 disabled people over the weekend

Reuters June 13, 2021
A woman, who came to receive a dose of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, stands in front of a closed gate of a vaccination centre which was closed due to unavailability of the supply of COVID-19 vaccine, in Mumbai, India, May 3, 2021. REUTERS

Authorities in an Indian city have organised a special drive-through vaccination camp for disabled people in a bid to address low vaccination rates, especially among more vulnerable members of society.

Organisers of the weekend campaign in Ahmedabad, the biggest city in Gujarat state, aim to vaccinate 500 disabled people, who often struggle to book slots and get access to vaccination centres.

People taking advantage of the offer queued up at the centre in vehicles, wheelchairs, and on customised mopeds for their free Covid-19 vaccine shots.

"The vaccination process is now more convenient," said Mahendra Chudasma, a 45-year-old man who is visually impaired.

"It's a very nice feeling."

Despite being a major producer of coronavirus vaccines, India faces a huge task in inoculating its 1.3 billion people, partly due to the logistical difficulties of reaching remote areas and also scepticism about the shots.

People with disabilities often face additional problems of being unable to reach vaccination sites due to a lack of transport or no ramps at the centres for easy access, said Bhushan Punani, general secretary of the Blind People’s Association in Ahmedabad, one of the organisers of the campaign.

Some people have struggled to use a government-mandated smartphone app required to register for shots, he added.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has said it aims to vaccinate all eligible and willing Indians by the end of this year, but only 240 million of the country's 950 million adults have had at least one shot, according to health data.

India was hit hard by a surge of coronavirus infections in April and May but there are signs the worst could be over.

Authorities on Sunday reported 80,834 new Covid-19 infections over the previous 24 hours, the lowest daily tally in more than two months, according to health ministry data.

There were 3,303 deaths over the same period.


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