India Coronavirus Dispatch: Only half of health workers turning up for jabs

Vaccine hesitancy is potentially putting India’s ambitious vaccination drive in jeopardy as even health workers are wary of receiving the jabs, according to a report The Telegraph.  Due to widespread online misinformation and suspicion that the Indian government may have authorised Covaxin, a home-grown vaccine, without adequate efficacy data, barely half of India’s health workers are showing up for vaccination appointments. As of Thursday, official data shows that only 54 per cent of health workers showed up for their appointments, the report said. Some 30 million healthcare and other frontline workers are first in the queue for jabs. A senior immunisation officer told the Telegraph that they have been given the target to vaccinate 10 million healthcare workers by the end of February. But the current rate of vaccinations now makes that very unlikely, the officer said. In a survey conducted by New Delhi-based online platform LocalCircles, 62 per cent of 17,000 respondents were hesitant to get vaccinated immediately, mainly due to worries over possible adverse reactions. Acceptance has been so low that some health employers have threatened to delay salaries unless staff receive shots. Doctors have in return protested that authorities release the efficacy data on India’s Covaxin shot before they accept it. Authorities blame the misinformation on social media platforms and vested interest groups for creating doubts around the vaccine. India’s health minister, Harsh Vardhan, last week said: “It is only a handful of vested political interests who are interested in spreading rumour and encouraging vaccine hesitancy among those vulnerable to such propaganda in the population.” However, India’s top virologist and director of the Trivedi School of Biosciences at Ashoka University, Dr Shahid Jameel believes the vaccine hesitancy has been triggered by the lack of data on efficacy and mixed messaging. The president of the Indian Academy of Sciences, Partha Majumder, who is one of the 13 signatories of a letter to the Government, said: “Relevant data from the larger phase three (efficacy) trial must become available before administering the vaccine to large numbers of people.”

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