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Hesitancy to get inoculated leads to vaccine wastage in Tamil Nadu

TE Raja Simhan Chennai | Updated on May 07, 2021

8.83% of vaccines consumed have gone waste in TN

Tamil Nadu has, so far, consumed 68.47 lakh doses of Covid-19 vaccines. While this is quite low when compared to other large States, what is more worrying is the fact that 8.83 per cent of the vaccines consumed have gone waste. In other words, as many as 6.04 lakh people could have been vaccinated at least once had there been no wastage.

Only Lakshadweep has a wastage percentage (9.76 per cent) higher than Tamil Nadu, says Union Ministry of Health data. This issue needs immediate attention.

In comparison, high vaccine-administered States such as Karnataka have just 0.14 per cent wastage followed by Maharashtra (0.22 per cent); West Bengal (1.16 per cent); Rajasthan (2.24 per cent); Uttar Pradesh (3.54 per cent); and Gujarat (3.61 per cent).

Experts attribute high wastage in Tamil Nadu to vaccine hesitancy among the people, especially in the early days. Once a vial – that is stored at 2-8 degree Celsius – is opened, it should be used within four hours. Each vial has 10-20 doses of vaccines. Unused vials or vials with unused doses when returned to the pharmacy is considered a wastage, said a senior government official.

The death of actor Vivek a day after vaccination had created fear among the public, especially in semi urban and rural areas. “It is very difficult to convince people to get vaccinated, especially after Vivek’s death,” said a staff member at a vaccination centre in Madurantakam. “We have eight people registered and have been waiting for two more for the last two days,” said the staff.

Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan, however, argues that the 8.83 per cent was a cumulative number and the number has been brought down to 5 per cent since April 1. The wastage happens when the vial is opened for the last set of 10 doses, but there are less than 10 persons to get the jab. This, when looked at across more that 4,000 session sites a day, is the main challenge, he told BusinessLine.

“We have rationalised the site and now with increased awareness wastage has come down to 5 per cent from April 1. It will be brought down further,” he added.

Meticulous planning

Srinivas of Indian Public Health Association, in a media report, said meticulous planning is required to ensure that wastage is reduced to 2-3 per cent first and then to less than 1 per cent.

Health experts said vaccine wastage can be minimised if the vials are opened only after 10 beneficiaries arrive. Providing adequate training to healthcare workers is a must on how to administer the doses and, more importantly, misinformation about vaccination should be contained.

With nil vaccine wastage, Kerala’s vaccination system can be emulated in Tamil Nadu, too, they say.

Published on May 06, 2021

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