Efficient administration of the Covid-19 vaccine in Kerala leading to almost nil wastage is a function of the rare competence of health workers in the State as also the public managing to ride over in time the vaccine hesitancy and fear for adverse effects evident in some segments during early days of the campaign.

Stand-in Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday complimented the ‘super-efficient’ health workers in a tweet in which he said that Kerala has received 73,38,806 doses of vaccine so far. It has administered 74,26,164 doses, making use of the extra dose available as wastage factor in each vial.

Allowable vaccine wastage

This is when the Centre’s vaccine operational guidelines have factored in an allowable wastage of 10 per cent. In fact, wastage was made a criterion in the allocation of vaccines as per the liberalised Covid-19 immunisation strategy starting May 1 from when ‘it (wastage) would affect the allocations negatively.’

But Kerala was able to do much better, thanks to a time-tested vaccination legacy, trained staff and an efficient inventory management. The frontline health workers had all been apprised of the scarcity of the vaccine and how entire lives are dependent on it, sources in the Health Department said.

Friendly ASHA worker

An ASHA worker is the friendliest arm of the State government that reaches out to households during these critical times of the pandemic, these sources said. This is true not just of the rural outback but even in the urban settings as anecdotal evidence available from in and around Thiruvananthapuram suggests.

Vaccination centres must ideally have 10 recipients to make optimal use of a single 10-dose vial. It was difficult to convince the eligible to report at the vaccination centres in the early phases. The instruction is that once a vial is punctured, it must be used within four to six hours. So, it was crucial to get the needed numbers in.

Difficult task to begin with

This was a difficult task to achieve in the initial days, but once the public managed to get over with its vaccine hesitancy and fear of the unknown, things started to look up. The number of centres as well as sessions for vaccinations was ramped in keeping with the inflow, and the campaign gained momentum.

Parvathy Nair, a housewife from rural Thiruvananthapuram, said that the ASHA worker had called on her mobile phone during the first phase of the vaccination campaign and given her a time and day of appointment at the nearest public health centre. It was a pleasant surprise to receive the jab in time.

Things have changed drastically in the vaccination 2.0 and 3.0 phases that are marked by an acute shortage of stock. An ASHA worker in Thiruvananthapuram city said she is flooded with frantic calls and faced wrath of those in the 18+ and the 45+ age group awaiting the first dose or the second, in which case the due date has passed.

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