After four rounds of Covid-19 inoculation in the national capital, Shahdara district has seen the lowest number of health care workers immunised so far, with a little more than 1/3rd of all targeted beneficiaries receiving the jab over the past week.
While 54.5% of Delhi’s registered health care workers have received a Covid-19 vaccine jab, only 34.8% of beneficiaries in Shahdara district have been administered the jab, as on Friday, even as administration official told HT that several medical employees in the district had contracted the infection, and said they believed that antibodies to the virus negated the need for them to get a vaccine.
Three districts in the Capital have so far recorded a coverage rate lower than Delhi’s average — Shahdara, North (43.3%) and New Delhi (47.6%).
The nationwide Covid-19 vaccination drive kicked off on January 16, after which registered health care workers in the Capital have received shots on January 18, 19 and 21 across 81 inoculation centres.
“The largest vaccination sites in Shahdara, such as Guru Teg Bahadur hospital and the Rajiv Gandhi Superspeciality hospital were both dedicated Covid-19 centres. Most health care workers at the hospital have already been infected with Covid-19. So, they believe that antibodies will protect against the infection, so there is no need to take the vaccine,” said a senior district official who asked not to be named.
According to the official, these hospitals have asked their senior staffers and those who have already taken the shot to motivate others to get inoculated.
At Rajiv Gandhi Superspeciality hospital — which houses Delhi’s central vaccine storage facility — only around 80 staff members have received the shot over the four days — less than one-fourth of the over 400 slated health care workers.
“There are two important reasons why the vaccination drive hasn’t picked up pace at the hospital. One, most of the staff members have been exposed to the infection and think they do not need the shot. Two, they worked tirelessly when the hospital received a deluge of patients and now that the numbers have reduced so much, they believe that the pandemic has come to an end and there was no need for a vaccine,” said a senior doctor from the hospital.
Other hospitals like Guru Teg Bahadur and the central government-run Ram Manohar Lohia that have seen low turnouts have banked on senior faculty members and staff to raise awareness among others.
“If we see what is happening in other countries, there is a likelihood of a surge in infections in the future, and it is essential to protect health care workers, especially if a vaccine is available,” the doctor from Rajiv Gandhi hospital said.
The response to the vaccination drive was better at hospitals where either no beds were reserved for Covid-19 patients or only a section of beds were earmarked to treat patients with the illness.
“Charak Palika Hospital saw a gradual increase in the turnout for the first three days, but the fourth day witnessed a drop. On the first day of vaccination, 43 of the slated beneficiaries turned up, 52 got jabs on the second, 63 on third and 59 on the fourth. It is evident that there is hesitance among beneficiaries. With time, all concerns will be allayed and the turnout should go up,” said a senior official in the New Delhi Municipal Council which is in charge of the Charak Palika Hospital.
At Chacha Nehru Bal Chikitsalaya and Delhi State Cancer Institute too, the coverage was about 50% of those targeted.
Dr GP Kaushal, additional medical superintendant at Babasaheb Ambedkar Hospital in Delhi, said: “The vaccination coverage rate currently is around 72.5%. We are still well below the target every day. Senior doctors going for the vaccine shots have started encouraging the rest, but it is taking time. We have a long way to go.”
The overall turnout in the four days has been low at the four central government-run hospitals that have been administering Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin. The vaccine was approved by the apex drug regulator in a “trial mode” where those who receive the shot have to sign a consent form and will be followed up with for three months.
On average, 45.5% of the people in these four central government hospitals have received the shot so far as per the data. The highest among them was at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), where 95 people received the shot on the day of the roll-out, including the institute’s director Dr Randeep Guleria and NITI Aayog member Dr VK Paul.
Coverage at the premier facility fell dramatically on the second day, with just eight of the hospital’s registered staffers receiving the shot. It picked up after that, with 55 and 62 people being vaccinated on the third and the fourth day.
The lowest turnout so far has been at Safdarjung hospital, where 39% of the beneficiaries have been vaccinated.
Doctors from Ram Manohar Lohia hospital had written to their medical superintendent, asking for Serum Institute of India’s Covishield vaccine on the first day of the drive. “We are working to dispel any misconceptions or doubts that people have. The senior doctors and those who have received the vaccine already are motivating the others. We will also put up hoardings with comments from those who have been vaccinated to convince people that the vaccine is absolutely safe,” said Dr AK Singh Rana, medical superintendent of the hospital.