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Sharp jump in vaccine turnout in Capital as Delhi hospitals opt for out-of-turn jabs for health staff

The city recorded its highest turnout for the Covid-19 vaccination drive so far, with 5,942 health care workers out of the targeted 8,100 receiving the shot on Thursday
By Anonna Dutt and Abhishek Dey, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 21, 2021 11:43 PM IST

The city recorded its highest turnout for the Covid-19 vaccination drive so far, with 5,942 health care workers out of the targeted 8,100 receiving the shot on Thursday.

Officials said the 73.36% turnout, a nearly 25 percentage point increase from Wednesday was due largely to the government’s Co-WIN platform being tweaked to allow out-of-turn jabs for registered beneficiaries.

With 100 vaccinations on Thursday, the Delhi government’s Lok Nayak hospital became the first major government facility to record a 100% turnout. The highest-ever turnout at a public hospital so far was 95 at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on Saturday, when the vaccination drive was rolled out nationally.

To be sure, private hospitals such as Max-Saket and Sir Ganga Ram hospital have seen 100% turnouts before.

“We were able to vaccinate 100% people on Thursday. Of course, the ‘add beneficiary’ function, which allows registered health care workers to get the shot even if their name is not slotted for the day, has helped. Along with that, we are also working on motivating our staff members and we are addressing all their concerns. Those who have already received the vaccines are also motivating others,” said Dr Suresh Kumar, medical director, Lok Nayak hospital.

The hospital had administered doses of the coronavirus vaccine to 31 people on Saturday, a number that dropped to 12 on the second day of the drive, and later increased to 35 persons on the third day.

Although the turnout at Lady Hardinge Medical College was slightly lower on Thursday, the ‘walk-in’ option has helped it drive up numbers. At the hospital, 69 people were given jabs on Thursday, in comparison to 76 on Tuesday. The hospital, along with Ram Manohar Lohia, was one of the first to allow these out-of-turn shots.

“Earlier we had to turn away people who were not on the list of beneficiaries for the day. Now the portal allows us to add beneficiaries as they come to the centre. Now the portal also allows us to register people from our hospital on the spot and administer the shot. There were some contractual employees whose registrations were not completed earlier,” said Dr NN Mathur, director, Lady Hardinge Medical College.

Of the 11 revenue districts in Delhi, the highest turnout on Thursday (91.5%) was in north-east Delhi, where 183 out of 200 targeted beneficiaries were vaccinated, followed by south-east district (90.88%) where 727 of 800 beneficiaries were given jabs.

The Shahdara district vaccinated 264 (44%) out of a targeted 600 persons — the lowest among the 11 districts, showed government data.

The low turnout for the first three days was attributed to hesitance among beneficiaries and several instances of technical glitches which, officials said, were largely fixed by Thursday.

So far, 18,795 healthcare workers in Delhi have taken the shots out of a targeted 34,497, reflecting an average turnout of 54.48%, government records showed. While the turnout was 53.3% on the first day of vaccination, it dropped down to 44.2% on Monday.

However, with continuing reports of vaccine hesitancy among employees, hospitals have asked senior doctors to take the shot and motivate those working under them to get the jab.

“The government is focusing on information campaign to combat the vaccine hesitancy in a big way; the situation should improve within the week. We are asking all the senior doctors to talk to those working under them to address any concern they might have. We will also put up banners with what beneficiaries who have already received the vaccine are saying,” said Dr AK Singh Rana, medical superintendent of Ram Manohar Lohia hospital.

The hospital, which is one of the six centres administering Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, has been faced vaccine hesitancy, especially among the resident doctor who wrote to the medical superintendent asking that they be given Covishield. The centres with Covaxin have been seeing a lower turnout than those administering Serum Institute of India’s Covishield.

On Thursday, the turnout at centres giving Covaxin shots was 45.67% in comparison to 75.57% at centres giving Covishield shots, government record showed.

Dr Suneela Garg, director professor of community medicines department at Maulana Azad Medical College, said: “The government’s policy to allow centres to administer the vaccines to beneficiaries registered for slots in future dates have helped immensely in increasing the turnout on Thursday. High turnout numbers at this stage will contribute to confidence building among the masses and ensure that the turnout remains decently high in the coming days.”

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