Half of 3rd dose taken by Frontline staff, HCWs contribute 22 pc

New Delhi, Jan 19:  Even after the eight days of the roll-out, the inoculation drive of the precaution dose has remained sluggish in the national capital.

Close to 1.6 lakh third shots of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered so far in Delhi among the eligible beneficiaries which averaged to less than 18,000 inoculations every day.

The lowest enthusiasm was seen among the healthcare workers (HCW) followed by those above 60. The frontline workers (FLW) have contributed majorly to the drive, contributing nearly half of the overall doses administered so far, according to the Delhi government data.

Total doses: 1,59,697 (Fig: Jan 10-18)

Frontline:     76,734 : 48.2%

Above 60:    47,050 : 29.4%

Healthcare: 35,902 : 22.4%

According to the officials, experts and those monitoring the drive, recent infection in the ongoing wave, vaccine hesitancy transcended with the miscued idea of “mild Omicron” are keeping people away from the vaccination centres.

Dr Ritu Saxena, Chief Casualty Medical Officer (CCMO) at Delhi Government-run Lok Nayak Hospital said multiple factors are in play behind the low footfall while in the case of healthcare workers, the primary reason could be the high infection rate in the current wave.

“It is both in general public and the healthcare and frontline staff. However, given the exposure and transmissibility of the current virus, healthcare staff are getting infected in bulk making them ineligible for the precaution dose,” she added.

Saxena also said that on record, more than 300 healthcare workers have been infected so far in the hospital.

“The number could just be a fraction of actual figures. Almost everyone was down with either cold or fever which have been distinguished symptoms of the disease,” she added.

The Centre’s guidelines for Covid-19 vaccination defers an individual contracting the natural infection to take the jab for a period of 90 days post the recovery.

“In case of individuals having lab test proven SARS-2 COVID-19 illness, Covid-19 vaccination to be deferred by 3 months after recovery,” a guidance document available on Union Health Ministry’s website states.

Saxena also said that many of the individuals have still not taken two doses of vaccines which makes them ineligible for the precaution dose.

“Besides, there are also those who delayed their second dose and are now out of the cut-off range for the third dose,” she added to her reasons.

According to the Union Health Ministry, the precaution dose can only be administered to those who have completed 39 weeks or 9 months after their second jab.

Prof (Dr) Suneela Garg, advisor to the Indian Council of Medical Research and member of the Lancet Commission Covid India Task Force said the turnout in Delhi is in lieu with the national picture.

“The vaccine hesitancy we witnessed when the vaccination for primary doses rolled out last year for the cohorts of people above 60, healthcare and frontline workers have seems to return. We have been able to vaccinate only 55 lakh individuals in nine days. The vaccination drive among adolescents is doing much better. This is true for Delhi and nationally,” she added.

According to Garg, the narrative of the Omicron variant, now the dominant strain of Covid-19, causing “mild illness” is also a major factor behind the low turnout at vaccination sites.

“The fear of getting severe disease also pulls people towards vaccination centres. During the second wave when India opened vaccination to all adults, there was a huge rush to the immunization sites.

Majorly due to the devastation of lives the Delta wave brought. Such urgency for the third dose is missing and the narrative that the Omicron led wave causes mild illness is playing a significant factor in it,” she said.

“However, we must also acknowledge that the reason why the current wave has not been devastating is because of extensive vaccination coverage and also the immunity from the past infections. So all must take their due shots,” Garg added.

The administration of ‘precaution dose’ of Covid-19 vaccines to the healthcare, frontline workers and those above 60 years began in the national capital on January 10.