Why Tamil Nadu is the worst performer in Covid vaccine coverage

Vaccine hesitancy was found to be highest in the 60-plus age group, with just 559 people in every 1,000 protected with one shot.

From January to April this year, Tamil Nadu was vaccinating only 5-15 lakh people every month.

Tamil Nadu is the worst performing state when it comes to vaccination against COVID. A poll has revealed that just over 50 per cent of people in the state aged 60 and up have received at least one shot of the vaccine.

The Observer Research Foundation (ORF) found that just 559 persons in Tamil Nadu aged 60 and up have received a COVID vaccination shot out of every 1,000 when the national average for this age group is anticipated to be 947.3 per 1,000 people.

That means only about 5.8 million of the state’s 10 million older citizens are protected against the viral disease with at least one dose.

It is the lowest figure among all 29 states and seven Union Territories. In fact, neighbouring states like Karnataka, Kerala, and Andhra Pradesh have done quite well in vaccinating their senior residents.

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It seems that the state has a history of vaccine hesitancy, which has been fuelled by hiccups in the inoculation drive, government officials pointed out.

Since the pandemic began, it has been clear that the elderly are among the most vulnerable to viral fever, and thus it is crucial that the state focus on full vaccination of all senior citizens before a projected third wave of COVID hits India.

Also read: COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough infections—what we know and what we don’t

“In the first four months of the vaccination drive, Tamil Nadu saw high vaccine hesitancy among the population. Added to this was the death of actor Vivek, which was a big blow to our efforts to create awareness about getting immunised against COVID,” state health secretary J Radhakrishnan told the media, explaining that only “considering per capita vaccination and population to determine vaccination coverage is unfair because the state’s ability to vaccinate its people is also dependent on vaccine dose availability”.

The measures the Tamil Nadu government is taking to increase the pace of vaccination include raising public awareness about the drive, listing out the elderly yet to get their doses, and holding mega drives where a large number of people are jabbed in a day.

A poll conducted in the state by the Directorate of Public Health and Preventive Medicine to study public attitudes on vaccination noted that the elderly were quite apprehensive about the jab. Vaccine hesitancy was highest in the 60-plus age group, with 27.6 per cent hesitant, followed by the 18-45 age group, with 16.9 per cent hesitant.

From January to April this year, Tamil Nadu was vaccinating only 5-15 lakh people every month. However, once the devastating second wave of the pandemic made news, more people rushed to get jabbed, with the state administering over 85 lakh doses in August, using up 96 per cent of the month’s stock.

The health minister pointed out that vaccine hesitancy in the state was higher in the initial months and that centres were now packed with people willing to get inoculated. “Every time we get a fresh stock, it only lasts 3-4 days,” he said, adding that vaccination numbers in the state would pick up soon.

Also read: COVID now comes with new symptoms; dry mouth, hearing loss are some

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