Vaccine hesitancy in health workers must stop: Centre

Punjab reports the lowest vaccine coverage

Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 19

As India entered the third day of COVID vaccination drive the government lamented lack of enthusiasm among health workers to accept the shot and said it was sad that the health staffers were declining the vaccines in many states.

Punjab had reported the lowest vaccine beneficiary coverage alongside Tamil Nadu and Puducherry even as more than 4.5 lakh beneficiaries received the vaccines by 5 pm on Tuesday.

The better performers on vaccination (in terms of percentage of listed beneficiaries reached) are Lakshadweep 89.3 pc; Sikkim 85.7 pc; Odisha 82.6 pc; Andaman and Nicobar Islands N 81.9 pc; Telangana 81.1 pc; Dadra and Nagar Haveli 80.9 pc; Arunachal 75.4 pc; UP 71.45 pc; Rajasthan 71.3.

The poor-performing states are Tamil Nadu 34.9 pc; Puducherry 34.6 pc and Punjab 27.9 pc.

The Health Ministry said although the three-day vaccine coverage in India was the highest anywhere in the world---higher than the weeklong coverage in some countries---vaccine hesitancy must stop.

“It is sad that some health workers are declining to take the vaccines when the world is clamouring for them. Here we have our own safe vaccines and yet health workers are not coming forward. This vaccine hesitancy must stop for the health system to become COVID proof and non COVID services and surgeries to restart," Member Health NITI Aayog said adding that he was perfectly fine after getting COVAXIN at AIIMS on day one.

Paul said the platforms on which Covishield and COVAXIN have been developed are immunogenic and very safe.

“This is a very reassuring sign and this should dispel natural anxieties among people. Do not refuse vaccination if you are listed. If you refuse, you are not understanding your societal role. I also wonder why someone would not want to protect themselves and their families,” Paul said.

He said if doctors and nurses are declining vaccines, it is sad.

“I appeal to them to accept the vaccines because we do not know what shape COVID will take. We have to start non COVID programmes. I have taken COVAXIN. I have zero effect. Our system to respond to adverse events following immunization is robust and we must trust it,” he said, asking health workers to accept the vaccines.

“Vaccine hesitancy has to stop…If we accept vaccines, the wall of vaccine-induced herd immunity will start rising,” he added.

India has so far vaccinated 454049 health workers and active COVID cases have fallen to 2 lakh after seven months.

The daily number of deaths is now less than 140 after eight months while per day deaths are also reducing.

Only two states – Kerala and Maharashtra have more than 50,000 active cases each.

Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said India’s vaccination rollout has been smooth and encouraging considering the vaccine coverage of other nations on day one vis-à-vis India.

While France had 73 vaccinations on day one the UK had 19700, US 79458 and India 2, 07, 229.

‘The most important issue is that if we take the first week data for vaccinations, the US in the first seven days saw 5,56, 208 vaccinations. We will cross that number by tonight in just three days,” Bhushan said.

He said the UK had vaccinated 1, 37, 857 in the first week; France 516 and Russia 52000. India has already vaccinated over 4.5 lakh people on day three.

The government said adverse events had been seen in just 0.18 pc of the vaccinated and hospitalizations in 0.002 pc of the beneficiaries.

“These adverse events are the lowest in the world in the first three days,” Bhushan said, assuring that Indian AEFI response system was robust and time tested.

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