Thursday 04 Mar 2021

Lukewarm response for vaccination drive not a healthy sign

| JANUARY 18, 2021, 12:37 AM IST

Goa threw up a surprise on Day-1 of the vaccination drive with a mere 426 frontline healthcare workers turning up for the dose against the 700 listed. With Covid-19 continuing its onslaught snatching away lives and posing serious threats to frontline workers, a lack of enthusiasm is visible. The absenteeism of 247 health workers goes a long way to show the hesitancy and sends across a disheartening message.

Two minor adverse events following immunization were reported on the opening day in Goa. Against the 2.2 lakhs doses given across the country in two days, there were 447 adverse effects reported. A 22-year-old security guard at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi was admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) after he developed an allergic reaction on taking the vaccine. He experienced headache, rash, respiratory distress, and tachycardia. On Saturday, 23 people were reported to be dead in Norway after receiving the Pfizer vaccine.

Since the vaccination programme in India is in its infancy stage, the adverse effects reported will be keenly watched by citizens. The primary job at hand is to instil confidence rather than making a pitch on how it will benefit international travellers. The government has to bank on the assurances given by the producers of both the vaccines and make a concerted effort to educate citizens. The lukewarm response from the healthcare sector itself doesn’t give a positive vibe to the campaign.

The health ministry is talking about how the vaccination drive will be a life-changing event and how it would bring life back to normal. What it has failed to do is raise awareness on possible side-effects, and how these could be part of any other vaccination programme. Redness at the area of the jab, dizziness and other reactions in isolated cases need to be explained and put in perspective. People need to be also advised that the jab is not going to make an individual fool-proof against the virus and that that standard protocol like wearing face-masks and social distancing would have to be maintained.

While questions were being raised over Covaxin in some quarters, Goa, fortunately, were supplied with Covishield, known to be the preferred choice between the two. The Covid worry in the State is centred around patients with co-morbid conditions, and getting all such persons on board subsequently will be half the battle won. In this context, the vaccination process could be derailed if the hesitancy is not addressed at the earliest.

Probably Goa could follow Odisha, and pause the ongoing inoculation to observe those who have taken the shots and then proceed accordingly. The government may be laying low because of the limited vaccines at its disposal, but with a smooth system in place, it is always better to play safe than sorry.

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