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Hesitancy + App Glitches = ‘Sluggish’ Response to India’s Vaccination Drive

Hesitancy + App Glitches = ‘Sluggish’ Response to India’s Vaccination Drive

A medic administers the first dose of Covishield vaccine to a health worker at Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College in Ajmer, January. 16, 2021. Photo: PTI

New Delhi: Scattered reports of vaccine hesitancy among health workers and glitches in the Co-WIN app that is used to coordinate the COVID-19 vaccination campaign have resulted in many state governments falling short of their targets.

According to The Hindu, many healthcare and frontline workers who had registered to receive the vaccine have not turned up to get the first dose, reporting that the uptake is “uneven”. Many state governments believe that these workers are adopting a “wait and watch” approach, to see how those who have already received the vaccine fare.

In some districts, the Covishield vaccine candidates is dispensed much faster than Covaxin, according to The Hindu. This perhaps reflects that health and frontline workers too are concerned that the Bharat Biotech vaccine candidate was cleared without efficacy or safety data.

Tamil Nadu met just 16% of its target on January 16, the day the campaign was launched. The state’s health secretary J. Radhakrishnan told The Hindu that the uptake is “sluggish”. “Some associations of health professionals have promised to come for vaccination after one or two days. We expect the response to improve after the weekend,” he said.

Over January 16 and 17, the state could only administer 6,156 shots of the vaccine candidate, while its actual capacity was over 30,000.

Andhra Pradesh had planned to vaccinate nearly 32,000 beneficiaries on the first day but could only meet 61% of its target. The state government says technical issues in the Co-WIN application resulted in not meeting the target. On the second day, the state did not meet even 50% of its target.

Also read: Allergy-Like Reactions To COVID-19 Vaccine Candidates an ‘Expected Effect’

In Kerala, many sites achieved 70-90% of the target on the first day. Authorities told The Hindu that some who had registered to receive the vaccine had to be dropped since they did not fit the criteria – such as pregnant or lactating women. The state’s medical board chairman Santhosh Kumar told the newspaper many healthcare workers are apprehensive of the side effects of receiving the vaccine candidates.

Telangana met more than 90% of its target on the first day, but the state’s director of public health G. Srinivasa Rao admitted on Saturday that some healthcare workers “refused to take the vaccine on the first day out of fear or anxiety”.

Delhi health minister Satyender Jain said on Sunday that some people did not turn up to receive the vaccine candidate “at the last moment”. The state could meet only 53% of its target. Commenting on the turnout, Jain said: “Some people decided not to turn up at the last moment. The vaccination programme is completely voluntary. We cannot ask anyone to compulsorily take the shot even if the person has registered for it.” No vaccines were administered on Sunday.

Odisha met 85% of its target and Rajasthan reported 73.8%.

Medics at a vaccination centre in Patna. Photo: Moniza Hafizee

Co-WIN glitches

Meanwhile, a Reuters report said that of the 3 lakh people who were expected to receive the shots on Saturday, only 191,181 were inoculated.

Many health workers, who were due to receive a vaccine on Saturday, did not get the message via the Co-WIN, the report said.

Also read: India’s COVID-19 Vaccination Drive Hits Bump Due To App Glitch

“We were planning to vaccinate 28,500 people on Saturday but could do only 18,328 because of glitches in the Co-Win app,” a senior official at the health department of the western state of Maharashtra told Reuters on condition on anonymity.

The state’s health minister Rajesh Tope also admitted on Sunday that there were persisting technical difficulties with the app, which forced the exercise’s suspension until Monday.

(With Reuters inputs)

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