Free drive benefits increase third dose, but adult coverage only 21%

Despite a significant increase in the number of Covid-19 precautionary doses administered after the government began offering free vaccines to all adults from July 15, only a fifth of the country’s eligible population has received them. The 75-day drive for 18-59-year-olds ends next Friday (September 30).

So far, only 22.24 percent of the country’s adult population has received the third warning dose, while coverage among the over-60s is more than double that of the 18-59 age bracket.

While only 17.58 per cent of the 77 crore persons in the 18-59 age group have received the third dose, the percentage is much higher – 48.5 per cent – in the over-60 age group, which comprises 13.7 crore persons, according to data from the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. . As of mid-July, before the start of the free vaccination campaign for adults, only 8 percent of 18-59-year-olds and 27 percent of those over 60 had received the precautionary dose.

Since the start of the free drive, 14.6 crore precautionary doses have been administered; Of these, 12.7 crore were between the ages of 18 and 59, according to the data. So far, India has administered a total of 20.2 crore precautionary doses.

Explaining the possible reasons for the low precautionary dose numbers, Dr Sunila Garg, professor of community medicine at Maulana Azad Medical College and member of the Lancet Commission on Covid-19 in India, said: “You see the number and severity of cases. Infections have decreased, so vaccination is no longer a priority for people. We always see vaccination increases when cases increase. Another cause for concern is that people find that even those who have taken both doses are getting infections. To reduce this, we need to look at new versions of vaccines that are better able to protect against infections caused by current trends.”


why hesitate

Many people are not lining up to receive the third warning dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. There are many reasons for this, primary being the low number of cases and low severity. To reduce the dilemma, a vigorous awareness campaign will help, along with the introduction of new effective vaccines against existing virus variants.

“People only need basic vaccination certificates to enter or travel to different places, they don’t feel the need to get a booster dose,” said a senior official involved in Delhi’s immunization drive.

Since India started offering the third dose in January this year, it has been free for those over 60 – those at risk of serious illness and death. It was available free of charge to all healthcare and frontline workers, who are at risk of exposure to infection. The government allowed the use of the precautionary dose in the 18-59 age group at private vaccination centers after payment in April.

During the free vaccination drive, states were asked to make an “ambitious” push by organizing camps in big office complexes, industrial establishments, railway stations, inter-state bus stations and schools and colleges. The announcement of the free drive comes days after the union MoH&FW reduced the period between the second and warning doses from nine months to six months. The government has also urged people to take precautionary doses during June-July through a door-to-door ‘Har Ghar Dastak 2.0’ campaign.

While the national coverage of precautionary doses stands at 21.54 per cent, the performance of states has varied – from 91.9 per cent coverage in Andaman and Nicobar Islands to 6 per cent in Meghalaya.

Almost the entire population of the country has received the first dose of the vaccine, the precautionary dose coverage in states is calculated by taking into account the number of first doses given to adults in the total eligible adult population. Besides Andaman, the states with the best precautionary dose coverage are Ladakh (52.38 percent), Andhra Pradesh (41.13 percent), Puducherry (39.73 percent), and Sikkim (37.48 percent).

After Meghalaya, the states with the lowest coverage are Jharkhand (7.14 percent), Nagaland (7.41 percent), Punjab (7.75 percent), and Haryana (8.59 percent), according to MoH&FW data.

In Delhi, the only state to provide free precautionary doses to all adults even before the Centre’s 75-day drive, the precautionary dose coverage stands at 19.22 per cent – behind larger states like Gujarat (36.84 per cent), Odisha (35.93 per cent). ), Uttar Pradesh (25.57 percent), Bihar (22.82 percent), West Bengal (22.78 percent), and Madhya Pradesh (22.67 percent).

Coverage of precautionary doses in states like Maharashtra and Kerala, which have been dealing with consistently high number of Covid-19 cases through the pandemic, was lowest at 10.63 per cent and 11.03 per cent respectively.

“This is to be expected; it is the states that implement the programme. Vaccines are available in large quantities, so this cannot be the reason for low coverage. There is a need for aggressive awareness campaigns,” said Dr Garg. People over the age of 60, those with diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity must get a precautionary dose, he said.

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