Health dept mandated to increase 2nd dose coverage

Omicron: Health dept mandated to increase 2nd dose coverage

As of Sunday afternoon, the state’s second dose coverage had reached 57.85%

Representative image. Credit: iStock Photo

Faced with the looming threat posed by the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus, the department of health and family welfare has been instructed to substantially increase second dose coverage in the state by the end of December.

According to a decision taken on Saturday, the health department’s mandate is to “work to enhance second dose vaccination coverage in the state... expeditiously within two weeks.” 

Notwithstanding Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai’s comments on Sunday that the state must increase second dose coverage to 70% by the end of December, one government source said that the objective is to reach 100% coverage in the state “as soon as possible.”

This could be a challenge. As of Sunday afternoon, the state’s second dose coverage had reached 57.85%, translating to 28.8 million people having received a second dose in the state.

According to Dr Arundhathi Chandrashekar, director, National Health Mission, the planned increase of second dose coverage largely hinges on vaccinating a large number of people who are now eligible for a second dose.

“About 40 lakh+ people are currently due for the second dose,” she said. 

An analysis by DH found that if all 40 lakh people were vaccinated in the next four weeks, that would boost the state’s second dose coverage to 73.84%.

However, an official said that more people would subsequently become eligible for the second dose in the following weeks, which could help increase the coverage rate.

Vaccine hesitancy

But vaccine hesitancy could be a problem. Data shows that some 9.53% of the state’s total population has not bothered to get even one dose of a vaccine - this is roughly about 66.9 lakh people. These are people primarily in the 18-44 age group.

This could have implications for society as a whole, according to noted virologist Dr Shahid Jameel, director, Trivedi School of Biosciences at Ashoka University.

“Herd immunity should work, but it’s best to get as many people vaccinated as possible. New, more transmissible variants can push up the herd immunity threshold,” he said.

According to a government source, vaccine hesitancy is the hallmark of poorly administered districts.

The source pointed to the turnaround of Vijayapura district, which, at the end of October, was at 26th place when it came to first dose vaccination coverage, but is now second, having achieved 98.1% coverage. 

At the same time, a public health expert said that vaccine hesitancy is especially a problem among adivasi (tribal) groups and remote rural communities.

“Because they have been deprived of quality healthcare such as maternity support and basic care, many see Covid-19 as an isolated issue. They are puzzled by the government’s total focus on vaccinations for just this one disease,” said Dr Prasanth N S, assistant director (research) at the Institute of Public Health (IPH). 

In the meantime, officials confirmed that no new guideline has come from the Centre or ICMR to reduce the duration between doses to help accelerate second dose coverage.  

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