‘The only thing that can prevent spread and break chain of infection is vaccine ’

Since the vaccination drive began on January 16, Chandigarh has not been able to achieve targets due to low turnout. On February 22, at 14 sites, the target was 3,579, while 667 were given the vaccine.

February 25 is the deadline for healthcare workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Chandigarh has not been able to achieve targets, since the vaccination drive began on January 16.

On February 16 at ten sites, 1,285 was the target set for the vaccination drive while 257 were inoculated. On February 17, at 10 sites, 264 were administered the vaccine while 1,651 was the target. On February 18, at 23 sites, 2,248 was the target for the day, and 433 were given the shot. On February 19, at 10 sites, the target was 1,941, while 366 received the vaccine and on February 20, at nine sites the target was 2,338 and the number achieved was 540. On February 22, at 14 sites, the target was 3,579, while 667 were given the vaccine.

The low turnout, agree doctors, indicates vaccine hesitancy, which they attribute to a number of reasons. “The major one is the general perception that COVID-19 is almost over, and so there is no need to take the vaccine. But as new strains emerge and numbers rise in several parts of the country, it is imperative that the vaccination drive is given a fresh and powerful push,” says Prof Rakesh Kochhar, head, Gastroenterology Department and Sub-Dean, PGI.

Talking about the emergence of new Indian strains, Prof Kochhar says these have not been studied as yet, but what we know is that the British strain is highly transmissible and the South African strain is resistant to at least four vaccines. “The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, in layman terms, are based on spike protein, that means the entry point of the virus is targeted. When there is a mutation in the spike, the entry point will change. In the Indian vaccine, the whole virus is inactivated, and it is likely to be effective against many of the variants. We have highlighted time and again that our recovery rate is 98 per cent, but we also need to focus on how the infection can cause so much disruption in one’s life. Politicians, bureaucrats, film stars and celebrities should have been vaccinated on prime time and this would have instilled a lot of confidence in common people,” Prof Kochhar says.

The doctor adds that we need more mobilisation, campaigns and follow-ups to encourage people for vaccination, so that through word of mouth, the benefits of the vaccine can be known. There is a need to create vaccine envy. We have the vaccine, yet we are not using it. Give ‘I am protected badges’ to those who have come forward to opt for the vaccine. We must capitalise on the vaccine and now open it to the 50 and 60 age group. There is enough data from Israel to show that in a month, they have been able to vaccinate a large number of people, and the spread has decreased. The only thing that can prevent spread and break the chain of infection is the vaccine and it is paramount,” adds Prof Kochhar.

At the PGI, 4,000 healthcare workers of the institute have been vaccinated. To motivate the remaining staff, and to encourage them to opt for the vaccine, in the interest and safety of patients, staff and community, an open house under the chairmanship of Prof Jagat Ram, director, PGI, has been planned on February 24 for the healthcare workers here. The open house strives to address any questions or concerns pertaining to Covid-19 vaccine, with doctors talking about the benefits of the vaccine.

Dr V K Nagpal, Medical Superintendent, Joint Director, Health, GMSH-16, is hoping that in the next two days the hospital will see more healthcare workers opt for the vaccine, for no major side effects have been reported and with the new strains emerging in Maharashtra, people will feel the need to protect themselves and their families. “Many may be asymptomatic carriers and vaccines will check the spread. Also, around 15 per cent of healthcare workers are women who are pregnant, breastfeeding and want to conceive, so they won’t be given the vaccine. We have a sufficient stock of vaccines and we need to be cautious, as Chandigarh is not isolated and we must prevent second wave, with Covid-appropriate behaviour and vaccination,” Dr Nagpal says.

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