Kerala cracks down on vaccine hesitancy amid Omicron threat
As the world waits on tenterhooks to hear from scientists just how bad the Omicron variant of COVID is, Kerala is taking quick action to address vaccine hesitancy in the state. For, vaccines still remain the best bet against the new variant.
For the record, 96.11 per cent of the adult population in Kerala has got one dose of vaccine and 72.33 per cent people are fully vaccinated.
Those who refuse to take vaccination will not be given free treatment for COVID, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan made it clear recently. Besides, teachers and government employees who interact with public but are not willing to get vaccinated will have to produce negative RTPCR test results on a weekly basis.
According to V Sivankutty, Minister for Education, 5,000 teachers in Kerala remain unvaccinated for various reasons, including “religious reasons”.
Vijayan has said those who are not able to get vaccinated for health reasons have to produce a doctor’s certificate. Any “religious reason” for refusal will not be accepted and such people will have to get tested for COVID every week.
As on November 30, Kerala had 43,663 positive cases with a test positivity rate of 7.93 per cent. A spike in the state’s death count has been observed since October 22 – the day recounting of deaths started. As of now, the death toll has crossed 40,000, which is 0.85 per cent of the total cases detected. But the number of tests has also come down, with average tests in a week being 50,000.
Data shows that severity of COVID has reduced drastically. On November 30, only 7 per cent of the existing positive cases were in hospital. Among them, only 1.7 per cent needed oxygen beds and 1.6 per cent were in ICUs. According to the daily bulletin released by the CM, there is a 17 per cent decline in growth rate this week compared to last week.
According to experts, COVID would exist in Kerala for a longer period of time. “Breakthrough infections would be high in Kerala because the majority of the population achieved immunity only through vaccination and not through infection, as it happened in other states,” says Dr KP Aravindan, a member of the expert panel on COVID management. One-time infection along with vaccination is said to give greater immunity.
The state government has also decided to strengthen monitoring in the wake of the Omicron threat. There will be regular screening of passengers coming from high-risk countries. Information of such passengers would be handed over to local bodies and primary healthcare workers, which would enhance checks.