Vaccinating healthcare workers: A race against time

TV Jayan New Delhi | Updated on February 22, 2021

The Health Ministry has asked States/UTs to complete the first dose vaccination of all healthcare workers latest by February 24   -  Bloomberg

Out of one crore workers, only 64.25 lakh have got the first shot

With just two more days left for healthcare workers to get at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccination on priority basis, questions are being raised whether all those working in the health sector would be able to get themselves vaccinated in time.

Till Monday, only 64.25 lakh healthcare workers received at least the first dose of the Covid vaccine while there are close to 1 crore public and private healthcare workers in the country. The States and Union Territories have to vaccinate an additional 33 per cent of health care workers in next two days.

A total of 1.14 crore Covid-19 vaccinations were carried out till Monday. While over 64.25 lakh healthcare workers received the first dose, the second dose has been administered to close to 11.16 lakh workers. Besides, around 38.83 lakh frontline workers also received the vaccine.

The Health Ministry has asked States/UTs to complete the first dose vaccination of all healthcare workers latest by February 24. Anybody who has failed to get the vaccination will then have to wait for his or her turn as per the general category.

In fact, the Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote on Sunday to all States and UTs exhorting authorities to expedite the vaccination drive. “The pace of vaccination drive and its coverage needs to be accelerated exponentially to cover all identified beneficiaries in a minimum possible time,” he said.

‘Dozen on target’

Completing this round of vaccination on time is critical because the Centre is finalising the operational strategy for vaccinating the next priority group of the elderly and persons with co-morbidities, expected to be taken up from March 21.

There are a dozen States and Union Territories that are well on target. Bihar, for instance, has given the first dose to 85 per cent of over 4.77 lakh healthcare workers. Among other large States that are close to achieving the target is Gujarat which has vaccinated 80.7 per cent of around 5.68 lakh registered healthcare beneficiaries. Similarly, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan respectively have covered 77.7 per cent, 76 per cent and 75.8 per cent of healthcare beneficiaries till Sunday. States and UTs such as Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Tripura, Himachal Pradesh and Lakshadweep too have done well.

‘Seven lagging’

Seven States and UTs have lagged behind. Among them were Punjab, Delhi and Tamil Nadu, which have been to cover only half or less than half of their healthcare beneficiaries. However, K Vinay Kumar, a senior official with State health mission in Tamil Nadu, said he was confident that the State would be able to complete administering first dose of the vaccine to all health care worker beneficiaries by the deadline. “We have put in place a plan to complete the task,” he told BusinessLine. According to a Punjab government official, in charge of the vaccination drive, the glitches in Co-WIN platform continues to be a major irritant.

This, apart from the hesitancy among paramedical workers, continues to be a big challenge in the State. The Co-WIN issue was highlighted by a medical doctor involved in Covid-19 vaccination drive in Kerala too. “System is so erratic. One day a vaccination site was able to vaccinate 17 beneficiaries, the second day over 90 and on third somewhere around 60. Considering that each vaccination centre has four vaccinators, this is a colossal waste of manpower,” Kerala doctor said sharing his experience over last few days.

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Published on February 22, 2021
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