Covid vaccination drive at Mumbai's Cooper Hospital. (Express photo by Amit Chakravarty)
Dhule, Hingoli and Amravati districts have recorded more than 80 per cent turnout of health workers for Covid-19 vaccination, which is the highest in the state so far. Between January 16 and 20, Maharashtra touched 62 per cent turnout of targeted 83,900 health workers.
While health secretary Dr Pradeep Vyas said the turnout will scale up in the long run, district officials said though there is an eagerness to get vaccinated among health workers, glitches in the CoWIN application have hampered the entire process. In some districts, health workers have skipped vaccination as the inoculation centres were located too far.
In Dhule, of 1,200 health workers listed for vaccination at four sites, 1,068 (89 per cent) have got vaccinated till January 20. Civil surgeon Manik Sangale said since only Covishield vaccine is being administered, health workers are ready to get vaccinated. “Only those with some comorbidities are refusing. On the first day, our district health officer got vaccinated. That encouraged several in the lower rungs (to take the dose),” Sangale said.
Dhule has recorded four very minor adverse events following inoculation, though none required hospitalisation. Officials said this has been an “added advantage” and encouraged more health workers to get vaccinated. “The CoWin app issues were recorded only on the first day here. Thankfully, after that it has run smoothly,” Sangale said.
In Amravati, 1,254 health workers or 84 per cent turnout has been recorded so far. Till January 20, 1,500 health workers were scheduled for vaccination. The district has also seen the maximum turnout for Covaxin, which is witnessing hesitancy in five other districts due to lack of efficacy data of vaccine in public.
Covaxin, developed indigenously by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), is being administered at six sites in Maharashtra with a daily target of 600 immunisations across the state. Of the 300 scheduled to receive Covaxin in Amravati till January 20, a total of 253 have turned up, much higher than JJ Hospital in Mumbai where 67 health workers and Aurangabad where 104 turned up in the same period.
Dr Chandrashekhar Nikam, the superintendent of Amravati district hospital, said they have been scheduling more vaccination appointments than the intended target so that district’s full capacity is utilised.
Hingoli has a target of vaccinating only 200 health workers a day. Officials said with a lower target the district is able to focus on each recipient and counsel them. On the first day of vaccination, 100 per cent health workers turned up, which reduced to 60 per cent on the second day but shot up to 107 per cent on the third day.
Districts like Mumbai, Raigad, Sangli, Gadchiroli, Pune, and Aurangabad, however, have recorded less than 50 per cent turnout. In Mumbai, half of the 10,400 health workers scheduled for vaccination reported for the intramuscular jab till January 20.
Lowest turnout has been recorded in Raigad where of the 1,200 health workers scheduled for vaccination at the four centres only 557 (or 46 per cent) have turned up. Dr Bhagyashree Patil, the superintendent of government rural hospital, Poladpur, said vaccine hesitancy is responsible for the poor turnout. “We have not carried any awareness sessions yet, but it seems health workers are not eager to get vaccinated. There are only four centres so long-distance travelling could also be a reason,” she said.
In Gadchiroli, of the 1,200 only 589 (or 49 per cent) health workers came for vaccination till Thursday. On Friday, health workers, including ASHAs and auxiliary nurse midwives, were provided vehicles to reach the four vaccination centres. District officials said the turnout had improved when transportation was provided for free.
“We don’t know if its vaccine hesitancy or there are other reasons behind the low turnout. We suspect several health workers may not understand the text message they have received for vaccination,” Dr Shashikant Shambharkar, the district health officer, said. He said awareness about vaccination is being created among health workers.
Aurangabad so far has recorded a 48 per cent turnout, Pune 50 per cent, and Sangli 49 per cent. In Sangli, district officials said CoWIN glitches had hampered seamless vaccination drive. Several health workers did not receive text messages or names were repeated on the list even after they had got vaccinated.
Dr Radhakishan Pawar, the district health officer of Beed, said the turnout could significantly improve if CoWIN glitches are resolved or offline vaccination drive was permitted even for those not listed for vaccination on a particular day. “A lot of our time is spent in manoeuvring through the software,” Pawar said.