U.T. reworks strategy to boost vaccination coverage

Anganwadi workers and community influencers to be roped in to cover all eligible people

The health administration has decided to rope in anganwadi workers and community influencers in a bid to boost COVID-19 vaccination coverage in the Union Territory.

The move comes amid less than expected vaccine offtake in spite of several initiatives undertaken by government, from non-stop vaccination drives, street corner sessions to rural camps. The Health Department had launched targeted door-to-door delivery of vaccines in low-coverage neighbourhoods to tackle lingering hesitancy or misplaced anxieties. Now, the plan is to utilise the grass-roots reach and familiarity of anganwadi workers to mobilise the unvaccinated to take the jab, an official said.

Health Secretary C. Udayakumar convened a meeting on Monday to chalk out a plan to achieve 100% vaccination coverage in the U.T. It was decided to task the medical officers of the PHCs to check the information of those who had not been vaccinated and to coordinate with the Child Development Project Officers (CPDOs) to vaccinate these sections.

It was decided to continue with awareness programmes to urge the people to utilise the facilities set up by the administration for hassle-free vaccinations and to highlight the medical evidence of only unvaccinated patients developing serious consequence and accounting for about 97% of ICU admissions.

G. Sriramulu, Health Director; P. Muthumeena, Director (Women and Child Development); and other officials attended the meeting that stressed on the importance of sustaining Covid-appropriate behaviour in the community.

Virtual conference

Meanwhile, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Monday convened a virtual meeting with officials from Puducherry, Manipur, Meghalaya and Nagaland where vaccination coverage remained below par.

As of Monday, the Union Territory of Puducherry had administered 11,76,677 vaccine doses, including 4,38,981 second doses.

Mr. Mandaviya’s message to officials was to adopt vaccination as the cornerstone of the strategy against the pandemic and to push the campaign aggressively.

States should prepare district-wise micro plans, deploy teams and rigorously track the daily progress of vaccination in low-offtake areas, Mr. Mandaviya said.

He urged officials to rope in all stakeholders, from NGOs, religious leaders and influencers, to expand the vaccination coverage. All officials could set apart one day a week to visit households and mobilise the unvaccinated towards full vaccination, he said.

The Minister suggested deploying students and children as COVID-19 vaccine ambassadors to motivate elders and other family members to take the first and second doses.

Recently, the Union Health Ministry sounded an alert on the recent rise of weekly cases across the Union Territory and prescribed a set of remedial measures.In a letter to authorities in Puducherry (and Ladakh), Additional Secretary in the Union Health Ministry Arti Ahuja said the Union territory had recorded a 41.7% rise in weekly cases and the positivity rate had been prominent in multiple districts of the region in the U.T.

Karaikal, Yanam, Mahe and Puducherry had specifically shown a sharp rise in weekly fresh infections. All four districts Karaikal (27.45%), Mahe (1.59%), Puducherry (32.57%) and Yanam (0.59%) have less RT-PCR contribution than the government mandate of 70%, the official said.

The letter underscored strict compliance with the basic health strategy, which includes routine submission of RT-PCR positive samples from foreign travellers and from the community for genomic analysis at the designated INSACOG network labs.

Sample collection

The Ministry has called for prioritising collection of positive samples from suspected vaccine breakthrough infections, super-spreader events and clusters of cases, which had high mortality and/or morbidity rate, and sending them to labs, maintaining sufficient level of COVID-19 testing for timely detection of cases across all districts, especially because the festive event was ongoing along with marriages. Prioritising second dose of COVID-19 vaccination and strict adherence to COVID-appropriate behaviour and daily review of COVID-19 cases and fatalities and promptly communicating necessary corrective measures to the teams concerned across the U.T., the official said.

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