The first day for the second round of Covid vaccination remained disappointing by and large since a number of key hospitals failed to attract the beneficiaries who had received the first dose of Covid vaccination.
The drive began on Saturday.
A huge percentage of those who had undergone the partial vaccination with the first dose 28 days ago, did not turn up for full immunisation on Saturday. As per Union Health Ministry’s data, only 7,688 beneficiaries turned up for their schedule. However, over 1.9 lakh vaccine recipients had taken vaccination on the first day of Covid immunisation drive that started on January 16.
The doctors and public health experts observed a number of probabilities behind the less turnout on the basis of their interactions and follow up with the vaccine beneficiaries.
Dr. Sunela Garg, member of Covid-19 task force in Delhi and advisor to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) told IANS that one of the reasons that could have resulted in low turnout for the second dose is hesitancy built after experiencing adverse reactions on receiving the first dose.
“The second dose is expected to create sharper side effects. Since healthcare workers are aware of this fact, it may have discouraged them to come forward for the booster dose,” she said.
Dr. Ajeet Jain, medical superintendent and nodal officer for Covid vaccination government-run Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital (RGSSH) concurred with Garg and said substantial number of the hospital’s partially immunized healthcare staff, who suffered after-effects for a prolonged period, skipped their booster dose. Only five beneficiaries of the previous dose turned up to receive their scheduled second dose at the hospital on Saturday.
“Many have reported adverse events following immunizations ranging from mild to moderate. While it is natural to experience them post vaccination, the impact it has made among the beneficiaries has caused the hesitancy to go for the second round of inoculation,” she said.
“The side effects like fever, pain at the injection site, weakness, etc. lingered for three to four days post the immunization in many healthcare workers. While interacting with us, they shared that they don’t want to experience the side effects again,” he shared.
Meanwhile, another reason quoted by the health experts was the increasing pretension that the pandemic is over, triggered by the falling trajectory of new cases and deaths by Covid-19. Dr. B.L. Sherwal, director at RGSSH said that a psyche has developed among the healthcare workers that they need not go for the immunization since they believe that the pandemic is over now.
“The current situation of the Covid-19 has improved tremendously from the crisis we witnessed in the final months of 2020 when the national capital took repetitive blows of surge in cases and fatalities. However, it has impacted the mindset of the people who now think why to take the pain of vaccination when the disease is over,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Rajeev Jayadevan, past president, Indian Medical Association, stated two possibilities that could have driven the low turnout. “One reason could be that the healthcare workers purposely delayed their second dose in anticipation to elicit better immunity response which is gained by more gaps between the vaccine doses. The second could be that many people believe that the single dose is good enough to build a protective firewall against the disease. Both are scientifically proven,” he shared.
Jayadevan informed that the efficacy data of AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, whose Indian counterpart, Covishield, is being used in Covid immunization here, showed that the vaccine was 73 per cent efficacious with just a single dose.
Dr. Garg also said that greater the gap between doses, better it triggers the immune response while agreeing that it may have propelled the beneficiaries to ditch the vaccination booth. However, she added that only a full regimen of vaccines is required to sustain the immunity built for greater protection from the virus.
“It is scientifically proven that more gap between the doses elicits a better immune response. However, this does not mean that those who took the first dose must be left for an infinite gap. They must come back to receive the second dose. Only then they will be able to have better immunity against the Covid-19,” she added.