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Doubts over vaccines loom large on day one, govt officials say turnout to pick up eventually

In Delhi, 4,319 health workers were vaccinated, while in Maharashtra, 18,338 got the shots. In Karnataka, 22,256 health workers and in J&K, 2,000 got the vaccine Saturday.

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New Delhi: As India launched the world’s largest immunisation drive against Covid-19 Saturday, hesitancy among healthcare workers prevented the country from achieving its vaccination target on day one. 

In Delhi, of the total 8,100 healthcare workers, who were expected to take the vaccine on the first day, only 4,319 turned up across 81 vaccination centres as of 6 pm, Delhi Health Minister Satyender Jain said in a statement.

A number of healthcare workers had expressed doubts over the efficacy of the coronavirus vaccines even before the inoculation drive began. The roll out of the home-grown Covaxin, developed by Bharat Biotech, was particularly questioned as data on its efficacy is not available in the public domain. 

Dr Ajit Jain, the nodal officer for vaccination in New Delhi’s Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital where a mere 45 out of 100 registered healthcare workers were administered Covishield shots, attributed “vaccine hesitancy” as the reason for the low turnout. 

“As of today, a total of 45 Covishield shots were administered. Five vials were wasted since every packaging came with ten vials. We are hoping to see an increased turnout once we amp up our counselling sessions,” Jain told ThePrint. 

He added that the staff workers had a lot of doubts as many of them asked why they should take the vaccine if they have to continue wearing masks, while others raised questions on the efficacy of the vaccine.

B.L. Sherwal, the hospital’s director, agreed that there have been “some refusals from the list of names recommended”.

“However, since the entire drive is voluntary, we cannot force people to take the vaccine. We intend to try our best to counsel them and get as many frontline workers vaccinated as possible,” Sherwal said.

At LNJP Hospital, only 32 of 103 registered healthcare workers turned up for vaccination.

Dr Sanjay Pandit, the nodal officer for vaccination at the hospital, said, “Things were running slightly late today as one had to wait for the PM to launch the vaccination drive before starting anything.”

He said the first day was bound to see some hiccups, adding that the number would eventually pick up. 

At the central government-run RML Hospital, which received Covaxin doses, only 31 of the 150 registered health workers were administered the vaccine.

The Resident Doctors Association (RDA) of RML and the RDA of AIIMS have expressed their concerns to their respective medical superintendents regarding reservations about taking the Covaxin shot. 

However, Dr A.K. Rana, RML Hospital’s medical superintendent, said, “It is the first day and our first beneficiary, the security guard at the hospital, Rama Kant, was vaccinated only after the PM finished his speech and launched the event around noon. So it was difficult to meet the target of 100-150 persons today.”

At Delhi government’s Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital, only 31 healthcare workers out of the 100 turned up for vaccination, according to hospital records accessed by ThePrint. 

Reached for comment, a senior official of the directorate of family welfare in Delhi, told ThePrint, “Honestly, the numbers of the first day were expected to be low as apprehensions were at its peak. However, I am positive things will pick up now since the word spreads.” 

Private hospitals in the national capital, however, showed better turnout.

Max Super Speciality Hospital in Saket was perhaps the only facility to have managed to vaccinate 100 healthcare workers on the first day. 

Dr Sahar Quereshi, the hospital’s medical superintendent, said, “We prepared our teams right after we received the news that our hospital would be a vaccination centre and perhaps that’s reflected in the number of people who turned up.”

Similarly, at Ganga Ram Hospital in Dwarka, 88 of the 100 healthcare workers were administered the Covishield vaccine. 

“Twelve people did not turn up, but we are expecting them in the coming days. No adverse effect was noticed in anyone,” hospital spokesperson Ajoy Sehgal told ThePrint.  

At Medeor Hospital, 60 healthcare workers were vaccinated.


Also read: Relief, excitement, jitters grip vaccine beneficiaries as India begins its immunisation drive


Telangana

Telangana health department officials said 3,962 people have been vaccinated out of 4,296 registered healthcare workers across the state. 

State Public Health Director G. Srinivas Rao said no severe reactions were reported from any centre, but about 20 beneficiaries reported mild pain, fever, redness and rashes near the injected area. 

Rao said they are trying to convince the healthcare workers, who have refused to take the vaccine shots. 

At PAUL DOSS Maternity Hospital in Hyderabad, at least 10 Anganwadi and ASHA workers dropped out at the last minute and refused to take the vaccine. 

Despite doctors’ attempts to convince them, the health workers remained adamant.

To achieve the target of vaccinating 30 volunteers per centre, 10 healthcare workers from the second batch were called to the centre to receive the vaccine.

“I am heavily diabetic and I am too scared to take the shot. If I do not want to take it why is the district administration forcing me to? What if there is some reaction?” one of the anganwadi workers, who dropped out, told ThePrint on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, a healthcare worker who was vaccinated at Government General Hospital, Vijayawada, developed a minor complication and was put under observation. She developed “injection pain shock”, but was fine after some time, according to Dr Siva Sankar, hospital superintendent.

Karnataka  

Karnataka had set a target of inoculating at least 22,256 health workers across 234 centres on the first day. However, only 4,804 people could be administered vaccine shots, said state health department officials.

A private medical practitioner working with a Covid-19 designated hospital, who didn’t want to be named, told ThePrint, “We don’t want to feel like guinea pigs.”

“We are wary of the vaccines for now as there is no scientific validation yet. I have been in the forefront of providing medical assistance. I was infected as well. But I would like to take things slowly. Let me watch and see how people who have taken the vaccine have reacted,” he said. 

G.M. Sanjeev, dean and director, Chamarajanagar Institute of Medical Sciences and College, admitted there was reluctance among doctors to take the vaccine at the hospital. But after counselling and several assurances, a few agreed and finally 40 were given the shots. 


Also read: Hospital chiefs take lead on Covid vaccine drive launch, no major plaints from first recipients


Jammu and Kashmir

In Jammu and Kashmir, a total of 2,000 people were vaccinated, according to senior government officials. 

At least 100 people at each of the 40 locations across the union territory were registered to be vaccinated. 

State Immunisation Officer Qazi Haroon expressed his satisfaction over the numbers.

“We were not expecting the numbers to be this high. Fear of something new is a human trait, but I would say that people defied the odds and turned up in decent numbers,” he told ThePrint. 

“I have worked in the communication strategy during the Measles-Rubella vaccination drive in which 27 lakh children in J&K were vaccinated eventually. On the first day, only 200 people had turned up, but it was a major success eventually. So I am hopeful that the Covid-19 drive will be a great success,” said Haroon.

Maharashtra

In Maharashtra, at 7 pm, the process of administering vaccines was still underway at a few centres. 

By 7 pm, as per data from the state government, at least 18,338 healthcare workers, or about 64 per cent of the target, had been administered the vaccine doses at the 285 centres across the state. 

Dr Pradeep Vyas, principal secretary at the state public health department, said, “The response was as per expectations and there were no reports of any serious adverse effect of the vaccination anywhere across the state.”

At certain centres where there were glitches in operating CoWin, the Centre gave permission to enter data manually. 

Vyas said the next session of vaccinations will be held either on Monday or Tuesday after discussions with the Centre on issues in the CoWin app. 

The aim was to vaccinate 100 people at every centre, which adds up to 28,500 people on the first day. 

Across the state, Hingoli was the only district where the state government was able to reach its target of giving the vaccine to 200 persons at the two centres in the district. 

The state government was also able to meet over 85 per cent of its target in the districts of Amravati, Bhandara, Solapur, Beed, Parbhani, Buldhana and Dhule. 

In Mumbai, which had 40 centres, 1,926 healthcare workers got the first vaccine shot Saturday. This is just 48 per cent of the state’s target of 4,000 in the city that was once one of the most dreaded hotspots of the virus.

Suresh Kakani, additional municipal commissioner at the BMC, said, “Every person who turned up was given the vaccine. There were no refusals. But, the turnout could have been low because it was a weekend, and also because it was the first day. We will have a better response in the subsequent days of administering the vaccine.”

Kakani added, “At some places there were long queues at 9 am when we had asked the prospective beneficiaries to report. One of the takeaways is that the process will be more efficient if we can give time slots to people.”


Also read: Around 3,500 armed forces’ doctors, health workers receive Covid vaccine on Day One 


 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Hey , if they don’t want it , open it up to the free market. Spending unnecessary public money on buying vaccines and convincing these people is a fallacy. 😂😂😂

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