Front line workers, elderly may have to wait two extra weeks to get Covid jabs
The low turnout of health care workers in the ongoing Covid-19 vaccination drive in Delhi is likely to push the vaccine roll out schedule for front line workers and the elderly by at least two weeks, senior officials in the state government said on Wednesday.
Since India launched one of the biggest immunisation campaigns to control the coronavirus disease on Saturday, Delhi has been able to vaccinate 12,853 health care workers so far. But this is just 48.72% against the Delhi government’s target to inoculate 26,378 health care workers in three days. Experts have said that if people remain hesitant in coming forward to taking more shots, the government should consider opening up to allow other priority groups – and maybe even the general public – to take doses.
Senior government officials said if current trends continue, then front line workers will not get their turn until March. As a result, immunisation of the general public, starting with people above the age of 50 years, can get pushed back to as late as mid-April.
“The issue is being closely monitored by the state health department and the Union ministry of health and family welfare (MoHFW). As of now, on an average 4,284 people are getting vaccinated for Covid-19 each day in the city. If the turnout does not improve soon and more centres are not added, then it will take the entire month of February and the first week of March to complete just the first dose of vaccination for the 120,000 health care workers,” said a senior government official involved in the immunisation programme.
As per the initial plan of the Delhi government, the first batch of 120,000 registered health care workers were to be vaccinated by February 13. There are 81 centres in the city, each of which has a target of vaccinating at least 100 people a day. The vaccination happens four days a week — Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
As of now, the Capital has received a total of 274,500 doses, which according to the government is sufficient to inoculate 120,000 health care workers. There are a total of 240,000 health care workers registered in the city for taking the vaccine. Health officials said another batch of vaccines would be required to immunise the reamainig 120,000 health care workers. A Covid-19 vaccination is considered complete if a beneficiary has taken two doses within a gap of 28 days.
A government spokesperson said the decision to increase the number of session sites or vaccination centres requires the approval from the Union health ministry. “The session sites are directly regulated by the ministry. So, increasing the number of centres will depend on directions issued by the Centre. The Delhi government is working on extensive IEC campaigns to spread awareness among health care workers regarding the safety of the vaccines. Several districts have started workshops from today (Wednesday) on this,” the spokesperson said.
Dr Yogesh Kushwaha, nodal officer for vaccination at Lal Bahadur Shastri (LBS) hospital in east Delhi said at present all the 81 centres, all of which are hospitals, are vaccinating health care workers that belong to their institutions only.
“At least 700 health care workers from LBS are to be vaccinated, but in the past three days, less than 150 workers have been immunised. Because of the low turnout, it will now take as much as three weeks to give the first doses of Covid-19 vaccine to all our 700 health workers,” he said.
A senior health official said the turnout is likely to improve in the coming days with the government now allowing vaccination on a “walk-in” basis to the registered beneficiaries.
“We are hoping to see a turnaround in the next two weeks as now even those registered beneficiaries who are not in the scheduled list for the day can get the jabs if they just walk-in at the session site. Any vaccination campaign always sees a tepid response in the beginning. It will take time. Districts are also carrying out different awareness campaigns and word of mouth plays an important role. As more health care workers take the vaccine shots in the coming days, people will be less scared or apprehensive about the safety of the vaccines,” a health official said.