Lucknow: Once the best performing district in Uttar Pradesh in terms of vaccination, state capital Lucknow registered a drastic decline in Covid-19 immunisation numbers during and since the four-day ‘Tika Utsav’ between 11 and 14 April.
The Hindu fasting period of Navratri, which began 13 April and ends 21 April, and fears about the surge in Covid infections appear to have played a role in keeping people away from vaccination centres. At least one hospital told ThePrint that they have suspended their Covid immunisation drive to cater to the growing number of coronavirus patients.
According to state government health data accessed by ThePrint, Lucknow district recorded 8,907 vaccinations (number of doses administered) on 15 April, with the number falling to 8,490 on 16 April. During the four-day Tika Utsav, the district saw a total of 45,245 doses administered, placing it second in the state behind Kanpur, which totalled 56,931 doses in those four days.
In comparison, in the first week of April, Lucknow had recorded around 18,000 vaccinations just on 5 April. On 10 April, the number had come down to 6,957. On that day, the district recorded 4,057 cases and 23 deaths.
The Tika Utsav was an initiative launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi aimed at boosting vaccination across the country, amid a sharp spurt in Covid infections that has seen India’s case tally top two lakh daily, with a high of 2.6 lakh reported Sunday.
The situation in Lucknow is dismal, with funeral grounds overwhelmed by the number of bodies turning up. As of 17 April, Lucknow had 44,485 active Covid cases, accounting for almost one-third of the state’s total number.
Asked about the fall in vaccination numbers, district immunisation officer Dr M.K. Singh said it was because the Covid surge had taken a toll on the mobilisation efforts underpinning the vaccine drive.
“There are two types of citizens, those who feel motivated to get vaccinated and those who need mobilisation. Earlier, ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activists) and Anganwadi workers were mobilising people, but all of a sudden, Covid cases saw a massive spike,” he added. “The administration got involved in Covid management.”
‘Some people are apprehensive about vaccines’
Lucknow has more than 150 vaccination centres, including private and government facilities.
ThePrint visited three major government vaccination centres and as many private facilities in Lucknow for three consecutive days earlier this week. Almost everywhere, it was a similar sight: Empty chairs and scared medical staff waiting for people to come and get vaccinated.
At the Civil Hospital, Lucknow, the testing queue saw overwhelming numbers Thursday, but the vaccination line only had a physically challenged elderly couple at 3 o’clock. Through the days that ThePrint visited, the flow of vaccine beneficiaries was sporadic, with one or two people coming every 15-20 minutes.
“Elderly people were motivated to get vaccinated. They were turning up in huge numbers. But some people are apprehensive about the vaccines. Then, the Covid panic has spread among people. They are not even coming to the operational OPDs,” said an official posted at the hospital.
The surge, said a doctor at Lucknow’s RML Hospital, the second government facility visited by ThePrint, has left even the medical community flummoxed. “Each morning, I wake up to this horrible news (of) dead bodies at crematoria and feel scared. If the medical fraternity is not able to make sense of this, how will ordinary citizens cope with this?”
Officials at Balrampur Hospital, another government facility, said the vaccination numbers have fallen over this week.
“This is Navratri week. People are fasting, no one will visit hospitals during this auspicious time and, on top of that, amid the rising Covid cases,” said an official of the hospital on the condition of anonymity.
At Mayo Medical Centre, a private facility, vaccination was suspended on all three days that ThePrint visited. “We stopped vaccination and focused on Covid (treatment). We will wait for directions from the chief medical officer (health) to restart the drive,” said a hospital official.
ThePrint reached Mayo Medical Centre Public Relations Officer Sunanda Dey by text and calls for a comment on the suspension of the vaccination drive, but there was no response by the time of publishing this report.
At Shekhar Hospital, another private facility, around 120 people are currently turning up for vaccination every day, compared to 250 earlier, say officials.
The turnout was also found to be low at the third private facility visited, Sahara Hospital.
A senior UP health department official involved with the vaccination drive said they had a target of “between 80,000 and 1 lakh vaccinations in Lucknow during Tika Utsav.
“But as the second wave of Covid hit the country, the numbers were not as we expected. We registered 18,000 vaccinations during the first week of April in Lucknow, but the numbers were between 8,000 and 10,000 daily from 11 to 14 April.”
As of 14 April, around 1.51 crore doses of the Covid vaccines had been administered in Uttar Pradesh. During the Tika Utsav, UP topped the country by administering more than 14 lakh doses of the vaccines (14,55,974), with Madhya Pradesh coming second with more than 13 lakh vaccinations (13,94,359), and Maharashtra third with over 11 lakh vaccinations (11,38,255).
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)
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