Covid-19 vaccine drive kicks off in national capital, 53% turn out for jabs
A total of 4,319 healthcare workers -- 53.3% of those registered -- received the Covid-19 vaccine in Delhi on Saturday, becoming the first batch of people to be inoculated as India launched one of the biggest immunisation campaigns to control the coronavirus disease.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal assured people about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines, saying “there is no need to worry” and urged people to continue to wear a mask and maintain social distancing. Health minister Satyendar Jain described the drive as successful.
The beneficiaries on Saturday included some of the leading doctors of Delhi who volunteered to take the first jab at various centres to build confidence about the two vaccines among the healthcare workers and the general public.
Of the 11 districts in Delhi, the highest turnout was recorded at 71.44% in south Delhi where 668 of the 935 total registered beneficiaries were vaccinated. This was followed by the northwest district where 706 (64%) of the 1,100 healthcare workers were given the first dose. The north district vaccinated 116 (32.1%) of the total target of 361 persons -- the lowest among the 11 districts. Experts attributed the low turnout mostly to vaccine hesitancy, pointing out that since no major adverse events were reported on Saturday, more people will join the drive on Monday.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal visited the Lok Nayak hospital where 32 healthcare workers turned up for vaccination. While the next Covid-19 vaccination will be held on Monday at the same centres, each site has been allowed to vaccinate a maximum of 100 people a day.
“I want to say to all not to pay attention to rumours and misinformation. The experts say vaccines are safe and there is no need to worry,” Kejriwal said.
“Every person who has been vaccinated is happy, nobody is experiencing any problems. We have started this at 81 sites, and we will increase this number to 175 sites in the coming days. As and when the vaccine supply increases, we will start the vaccination process at 1,000 sites,” Kejriwal said after inspecting the arrangements at Lok Nayak hospital.
The inoculation drive was launched at 81 centres or vaccination sites in Delhi with just one serious adverse event following immunization (AEFI) reported in the south district. where a security guard of AIIMS developed an allergic reaction after receiving vaccination.
“He complained of palpitations and developed an allergic skin rash within 15-20 mins after being inoculated and was admitted immediately. He is stable and is under observation. He is likely to be released tomorrow,” said a senior AIIMS official.Of the 4,319 beneficiaries, 51 reported minor reactions such as rashes, swelling at the site of injection and fever. South and southwest districts reported the highest number of minor AEFI with each reporting 11 such cases. Northeast and Shahdara districts reported no AEFI cases.
The exercise proceeded smoothly at all centres with no major glitch being reported from any centre. Some technical snags that were reported at Lady Hardinge Medical College on Friday led to fewer people turning up. The hospital vaccinated 26 health care workers.
The Delhi heath minister said once the 240,000 registered healthcare workers are vaccinated, nearly 600,000 frontline workers will be next in line. “After frontline workers, we will vaccinate people who are above the age of 50 and this will be followed by those below 50 with co-morbidities,” Jain said.
Senior government officials said the turnout was better in the city’s private hospitals with Max Saket vaccinating all of its 100 registered beneficiaries. Sir Ganga Ram hospital vaccinated 88 healthcare workers, while Indraprastha Apollo saw 72 of them.
“There was some hesitation among the doctors in receiving the vaccine, but if I did not believe that the vaccine was safe why would I take it. I will speak to the doctors and try to allay concerns,” said Dr AK Singh Rana, medical superintendent of Ram Manohar Lohia hospital, where only 31 people were vaccinated and some resident doctors asked the hospital for Covishield vaccine.
Among the government hospitals, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) vaccinated 95 people with a couple of them being turned away with fever and other symptoms.
Even as the centres were opened on time at 9 am, a number of them started the process post 11 am, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the nation. Almost all centres, including GTB hospital and AIIMS, had installed LED televisions to live broadcast the PM’s speech which was shown to the beneficiaries to boost their morale.
Union health minister Harsh Vardhan visited AIIMS where a sanitation worker, Manish Kumar, was the first to get the jab. This was followed by AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria and NITI Ayog member Dr VK Paul with his wife Dr Shashi Paul – all three were administered the Covaxin dose manufactured by Bharat Biotech.
Allaying apprehensions over Covaxin, Dr Paul said, “Both the vaccines are good, very effective, and very safe. I would urge the healthcare workers to take the vaccine assigned to them.”
Dr Guleria said, “We may keep arguing about which vaccine is good and which is better, at the end of the day all the vaccines that are safe and efficacious will help in saving lives and reducing mortality. These will evolve over time and we may get second-generation vaccines by the middle of this year that will need only one shot or one that can be a nasal spray.”
Dr Suneela Garg, professor of community medicine at Maulana Azad Medical College said, “Vaccine hesitancy had a major role to play when it came to the low vaccination rate on Saturday. Many people were comparing the two vaccines, many people wanted to wait and see what happens, and others wondered whether they needed it, having recovered from the infection recently. When people were asked to sign the consent forms, that also led to a lot of anxiety. But, with no major adverse events reported, I think more people will come forward in the coming days.”