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Vaccine hesitancy, doles may be driving high Covid count in Kerala

Vinson Kurian Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on October 08, 2021

A man gives nasal swab sample for Covid test at GLP School in Palakkad (file photo)   -  The Hindu

The current numbers may not reflect the ground reality, says expert

Vaccine hesitancy among an estimated five to six per cent of the eligible persons, even including the educated and aware, combined with a new-found willingness to report death to claim doles, may be driving the high death numbers in Kerala.

The daily death numbers had peaked to around 250 in June this year, recalls Dr TS Anish, Member of the State Covid Task Force, and Assistant Professor, Community Medicine, at the Government Medical College,Thiruvananthapuram. The number is now plateauing around 100.

The current numbers may not reflect the ground reality, Anish told BusinessLine on phone. He suggested that these numbers could even be slightly exaggerated, prompted by a combination factors.

Meanwhile, analysing the Covid death issue, Anish said that the tool employed to assess death has undergone some change in Kerala.

“Earlier, we used to confirm a Covid death only if all known causative factors agreed. So even a doctor had to refer details to an audit committee at the State level subject to whose clearance, even if with a time lag, it would be declared a Covid death.”

Lag in reporting deaths

So, initially during the pandemic, the actual death number being reported officially was many times lower than actual cases. This apparent lack of transparency evoked growing wave of protests especially on social media, which forced the government to change the rules of assessing a death.

Accordingly, it gave in to demand for what Anish called an ‘an all-inclusive’ genre of death reporting in which all Covid positive cases must be reported as such unless proved otherwise. So accident and suicides with some history of Covid, even if negative at the time of death, are now being counted in. The government is more guarded against instances of under-reporting as alleged during the initial days, even if not all have been substantiated or intended.

‘Norms eased’

“Now, a doctor on the field or at hand has been authorised to declare a Covid death if he has conclusive evidence that if the deceased had tested positive at the time of death or had known Covid-related complications. So death reporting is more transparent, leading to higher numbers,” Anish said.

Added to this allegedly, is the demand for deaths being certified as due to Covid after the compensation was finalised by the government and the courts.

Another leading factor for mortality is to least five to six per cent of the eligible for vaccination is still hesitant to take the jab for various reasons. Almost 90 per cent of those dying now are either the aged or the co-morbid.Two-thirds of deaths being reported currently is from this unvaccinated section. “So the unvaccinated six per cent is causing almost 12 times as many deaths currently,” Anish said.

Published on October 08, 2021

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