'With Pakistani Passport I Was Denied Vaccine, Got Jabbed on Second Try'
Sahar was told that private hospitals have no grounds to deny the COVID vaccine, since it is paid.
I am Sahar Qaiser. After my marriage to an Indian national, we started living in Kolkata. It has been seven years since. I have a Pakistani passport and I can only get Indian documents after I complete the necessary formalities of staying in India on a long term visa, ie, for 8-10 years.
Because there are no such rules that bar foreign nationals from getting a vaccine in India, I registered myself on CoWIN and added my passport details. I booked a slot at Medica Superspeciality Hospital for 9 July for the Sputnik V vaccine.
On the day of my appointment, I reached well before time with my husband and completed all formalities. However, after an hour of waiting, I was denied the shot on the basis of not being able to get clearance from Swasthya Bhavan (health department) and not having an Indian ID proof like Aadhaar or PAN Card.
This entire incident left me feeling discriminated against. If CoWIN can register a Pakistani with a valid passport number, why should the hospital create such a havoc? While waiting, we tried to ask the ladies at the registration counter as to why the process was taking so long. They themselves were uncertain, as the coordination between among the staff was not organic. Some people had chits while some had to wait for their names to be called out. No one could guide us properly. There was a complete chaos as far as the process is concerned.
Moreover, there are many expats who have been vaccinated after registering on the portal with their respective foreign passports. So why not a Pakistani?
Several friends, tourists from abroad have managed to get a jab too. The hospital, however, did not agree to give us our first shot even after providing proof of residence and my marriage certificate. After much ado, my husband asked to refund the amount we paid for the vaccination. The hospital obliged and we were intimated via SMS that our vaccination was unsuccessful as the 'patient refused' (The Quint has accessed the message).
Even after what happened, I was unwilling to give up.
I contacted the Swasthya Bhavan RTI Department, who then clarified that private hospitals have no reason to deny a vaccine dose to anyone since we are paying for it.
Later, I booked a slot again for 14 July at AMRI Dhakuria, another private hospital, for the Sputnik V jab. After booking the slot, we contacted AMRI and were told there were no such guidelines to bar any foreign nationals from getting inoculated. Hence, with smooth process and management, I was able to take my first dose of the COVID vaccine.
When I went to AMRI, the staff was helpful and the entire vaccine drive was organised well. I request each and everyone to book a slot for themselves and get vaccinated, so as to keep themselves and their family safe. If anyone denies a vaccine, they are denying you the right to health and life. Please inform the concerned authorities and demand accountability.
Now inoculated, I reflect on the happenings of the past few days and wonder the ordeal many expats, tourists or foreigners must have had to go through to get the vaccine. I would like to state that vaccines are the only way to curb this virus and break the chain of transmission.
If people in the country are not jabbed, irrespective of their nationality or any other social markers, then we will surely be experiencing another wave. Henceforth, it is of utmost importance to issue clear guidelines from the concerned authorities, so as to safeguard our kids, families and community. Because in the end, if one of us is unsafe, the entire society is unsafe.
(The Quint called Medica Superspeciality Hospital to enquire if it was accepting foreign passports as proof. The hospital denied, even if the Health Ministry guidelines specifies no such mandate.)
(The author is a homemaker. All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)
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