Awareness about vaccine second dose poor among rural beneficiaries

Awareness about vaccine second dose poor among rural beneficiaries
Launched on January 16 this year, India’s COVID-19 vaccination drive has so far benefitted over 12 crore citizens. However, lack of awareness about important information about the vaccination process in rural areas is affecting the drive. TNM tried to assess the scene on the ground in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu. In Andhra, where a high number of vaccines are being administered in record time, there is less awareness among the people about the vaccination pattern or method. Speaking to TNM, Balu Gadi, a social worker from Visakhapatnam Rural district, said, “While people in towns are rushing to vaccination centres, there’s not much awareness among the rural folk.” He added, “Even those who received the vaccine don’t know which vaccine (Covaxin or Covishield) they were given, but health workers are informing them about the date of the next dose.” Echoing this, Balakrishna Murthy, a 52-year-old resident from Visakhapatnam, said that he didn’t know which vaccine he was given but said that the health workers who administered the vaccine have written down the date of the second dose. Awareness about which vaccine a recipient takes is crucial due to the differences in when the second dose should be taken. While the second dose for Covaxin, manufactured by Bharat Biotech, needs to be given 28 days apart, the Indian government recently recommended that the second dose for Covishield produced by Serum Institute of india be taken between four to eight weeks, instead of four to six weeks. The recommendation was based on scientific evidence that the protection is enhanced if the second dose of Covishield is given between six to eight weeks.     However, despite the lack of awareness on the particulars of the vaccine, there has been a steady increase in the number of vaccinations in Andhra.  In fact, Andhra, which administered 6.28 lakh doses in a single day, witnessed a vaccine shortage last week. The state government has roped in all rungs of the healthcare mechanism to complete the vaccination drive to meet the stipulated target. As per the data on the CoWIN dashboard, so far 48,17,252 people have been vaccinated, out of which 41,70,925 were first doses and 6,46,327 were second doses.  Ravi Kiran, a private employee from Ongole whose parents received the vaccine recently, said “Unlike in the past, there seems to be attention to and interest in getting vaccinated. Now people are asking the authorities if there is any shortage or delay in vaccination.” Speaking to TNM, Dr Geetha Prasadini, Andhra Pradesh Director Public Health & Family Welfare said, "Initially in some rural areas there was a sort of fear and hesitation among people, now the situation has changed. People are coming forward to take the vaccine." She added that the state government is raising awareness through media campaigns and social media. In addition, the village secretariat makes announcements routinely from street to street.  In Telangana too, the government has initiated a large-scale campaign, with a total of 31,89,846 vaccinations having been completed, including 27,89,688 first doses and 4,00,158 second doses. However, knowledge about vaccination in rural pockets seems to be poor. Hymad Md, a 47-year-old grocery shop owner from a village in Kamareddy district, said that like him many people from his village who took the vaccine are not aware which vaccine (Covaxin, Covishield) they were administered. He said, “After we received the vaccine, we were kept in observation for 20 minutes. Then they told us the due date and asked us to come back that time.” In some cases, people with certain medical complications too have refrained from taking the vaccine as it is said to have side-effects. In Tamil Nadu, 48,55,454 vaccinations have been completed, out of which 41,67,579 were first doses and 6,87,875 were second doses. Like in Andhra and Telangana, in Tamil Nadu too, there is a seeming lack of awareness about the vaccination process. In Erode, Mamta got vaccinated but was not aware about the type of vaccine she was administered. Her son said, “We heard that everyone needs to get vaccinated and so I insisted that my mother too take the vaccine. She went to the government hospital’s walk-in drive and got the vaccine.” “However, I didn’t check which vaccine it was and she is also not aware of it. After 30 days she will go and get the second shot,” he said. When asked whether he knew any details about the vaccine, he said, “I don’t know many details but she is doing fine. Only for a couple days she had complained of pain at the injection site.” Speaking to TNM, Deputy Director of Health in Karur admitted that there is sometimes a gap in making people aware about their vaccinations. “There is a chance for people in interior parts of the state to forget to take the second dose of the vaccination. Also, the forms are in English and they do not follow the phone messages so in those cases we will remind them,” he said.  “In Karur, we are carrying out the vaccination drive by setting up camps and we are mobilising the people through the panchayat heads or through well-known people in the village. So we mobilise and vaccinate the people through the same people for the second dose,” he said adding, “We also coordinate with people who know to use technology through mobile phones.”  

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