BBMP forcibly testing vaccinated people in Bengaluru

BBMP forcibly testing vaccinated people in Bengaluru

Three out of every 10 people tested in the last few months were vaccine-takers who had been subjected to coerced tests

Sources said BBMP teams are violating rules because they want to reach daily testing targets. Credit: DH Photo/ SK Dinesh

The city has been testing between 52,000 and 63,000 people daily but sources said the high numbers were due to municipal staffers forcibly testing people who come to get vaccinated at some of the government centres.

A source in the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) said three out of every 10 people tested in the last few months were vaccine-takers who had been subjected to coerced tests.

This was the experience of a family of five who went to a vaccination camp run by the Shanthinagar Urban Primary Health Centre (UPHC) on Saturday. “We were told that we had to provide swab samples for RT-PCR testing before we could be administered a dose of the vaccine,” said Linda Peter, 48, (name changed), whose test result subsequently came back as positive.

The source said such incidents were not rare. “The rules, as set down by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), say that a Covid-positive person shall not be administered a vaccine until at least three months after recovery, but some BBMP teams are violating these rules because they want to reach daily testing targets,” the source said.

Read | No Covid-19 third wave for now, clarifies BBMP

Linda, who is asymptomatic, said she is now worried about having been administered the vaccine while being officially positive for the disease. “If the BBMP had used a rapid antigen test (RAT), I could have understood that they wanted to ensure that positive cases did not get vaccinated. Their use of an RT-PCR test was pointless because they allowed me to get vaccinated without waiting for the test result,” she said.

Similar incidents have been reported from other BBMP zones and villages. Two women from Varadenahalli in Devanahalli taluk and a youth from Singanayakanahalli told DH they got results of the test two days after getting vaccine.

D Randeep, Special Commissioner (Health), said the issue has been clarified many times before. “If asked to get tested, people can refuse,” he said.

Virologist Dr Shahid Jameel, director, Trivedi School of Biosciences at Ashoka University, said there were no direct health implications to being vaccinated while having Covid-19 but that it is tantamount to wasting a dose.

“A Covid-19 patient generates a high amount of antibodies. Their immunity has to come down to a certain level before a vaccine can be administered — to stabilise antibody levels. This is why the Centre stipulates a timeframe of three months before a Covid-19 survivor can take a vaccine,” he said.

He added that in Peter’s case, even if she got a second dose in future, it would be equivalent to getting only the first dose.

BBMP to issue warning

BBMP Chief Commissioner Gaurav Gupta said “a warning will be issued and advice given to all PHC staff about this matter”.

When queried, Dr Srinivas, an East Zone official, acknowledged that the protocol forbade subjecting vaccine-takers to RT-PCR tests as per instructions from the chief commissioner. “If a person has symptoms, an RAT test can be carried out,” he said.

At the same time, he denied that such tests were being conducted to allow PHCs to reach daily targets. “We are flexible about targets,” he said.

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