After Initial Hesitancy, COVID Vaccinations Pick Up in Tamil Nadu

On the first, Tamil Nadu reported 18.83 per cent were vaccinated which has gone up to 57.94% by the third day.

Updated
Coronavirus
6 min read
The state has the capacity to vaccinate 16,600 people a day but only 2,783 got the shot on 16 January.
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Tamil Nadu is known for its excellent healthcare system, so when there were reports of doctors and nurses and other healthcare workers staying away from COVID vaccination in the first two days, there were a lot of concerns.

The state had the capacity to vaccinate 16,600 people a day but only 2,783 got the shot on 16 January, the most being in Chennai (348) and the least in Perambalur (2).

However, the numbers on the third day have been very promising, with over 10,256 persons getting vaccinated on January 18.

Was it vaccine hesitancy? The state health secretary says it was the festival weekend that kept healthcare workers away.


“It was anticipated that once Pongal holidays are over it will pick up. Health department from the beginning maintained that it is not a target oriented programme but a demand driven programme even among the prioritised group,” Dr Radhakrishnan, state health secretary told FIT.

From 18.8% on First Day to Almost 58% on Third Day

On the first day, over 3,027 were administered Covishield and 99 were inoculated with Covaxin. While the target for the second day was 16,400, only 2,897 were administered Covishield and 164 Covaxin.

Interestingly, two of the six centres that rolled out Covaxin — the Tirunelveli Medical College Hospital and the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Medical College Hospital, Tiruchi — had no takers.

(Photo Courtesy: Tamil Nadu Health and Family Welfare Department)
(Photo Courtesy: Tamil Nadu Health and Family Welfare Department)
Data showing the vaccination target and the achievement over the past three days in Tamil Nadu.
By the third day, the numbers had significantly risen, with the target being 17,700 and 16,062 inoculations, with 15,975 for Covishield and 487 for Covaxin.

Vaccination drive was launched at 166 centres on January 16 — the Serum Institute of India’s Covishield at 160 centres and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin at six. Each centre has the capacity to vaccinate 100 persons a day. Chennai and Salem have the most number of vaccination sites, with 12 each.

Dr Jayanthi, Dean of Government Medical College, Omandurar was the first to get vaccinated at the centre
Dr Jayanthi, Dean of Government Medical College, Omandurar was the first to get vaccinated at the centre
(Photo: Smitha TK/The Quint)

In Government Medical College, Omandurar, over 70 persons were vaccinated on the first day, while the target was 100. But the dean, Dr Jayanthi said that the first year medical students and senior doctors taking the vaccine have been a key convincing factor for nurses and security guards to take it as well.

On the first and second day, Tamil Nadu reported 18.83 per cent and 18.78 per cent of the targeted healthcare staff were vaccinated. The third day saw the number rise to 57.94%.

“The calibrated and cautious and steady approach with focus on ensuring no or minimal adverse events is more important. The picking up of numbers is very encouraging as more and more people among health workers are willingly now coming forward to get vaccinated,” Dr Radhakrishnan said.

(Photo Courtesy: Tamil Nadu Health and Family Welfare Department)
(Photo Courtesy: Tamil Nadu Health and Family Welfare Department)
Data showing how different states fared on the third day of vaccination.
(Photo Courtesy: Tamil Nadu Health and Family Welfare Department)
(Photo Courtesy: Tamil Nadu Health and Family Welfare Department)
Data showing how different states fared on the third day of vaccination.

Apprehensions Lead to Low Acceptance

Several doctors and healthcare workers, expressing apprehensions about the vaccines, chose to wait and watch before making a decision.

“I have been working in the COVID ward since March and have always been afraid of contracting the virus. However, I am more scared to take this vaccine because of the possible repercussions. I have been safe so far and I believe I would trust in God more than this vaccine.”
A nurse at a government hospital in Chennai to The Quint

Several senior government doctors in Chennai said that it has been difficult to get willingness from doctors and staff members and that is why there has been a low number of registrations online and most of them are done on the spot before the vaccination.

“Most of the doctors and nurses at my hospital are not willing to get vaccinated. The hesitancy is mainly due to the fear about safety as they have been introduced at such a short span of time,” a hospital dean told FIT.

However, since no adverse event has been reported since the vaccination drive began, more doctors are now coming forward to take the vaccine, state officials said.

Many doctors have objected to taking Covaxin and it was only the dean and directors who had opted for it on the first day. The willingness for the Indian-made vaccine is slightly improving.

The screening and consent form for Covaxin says, “In phase 1 and phase 2 clinical trials, Covaxin has demonstrated the ability to produce antibodies against COVID-19. However, the clinical efficacy of Covaxin is yet to be established and it is still being studied in phase 3 clinical trial. Hence, it is important to appreciate that receiving the vaccine does not mean that other precautions related to COVID-19 need not be followed.”

“There is a three-step approach in Tamil Nadu that has been slightly different. Starting with having direct communication, not putting pressure such as take it or leave it, sharing positive bytes of doctors who have taken it to instil confidence and also clarifying doubts and dispelling rumours.”
Dr Radhakrishnan, Tamil Nadu Health Secretary

“Apart from communicating and clarifying the doubts, the opinion leaders among the doctors and various associations willingly coming forward has also helped. We will be taking it by the day and simultaneously also focussing on regular prevention and control work too,” the health secretary added.

A few security guards who got vaccinated told they were assured of safety looking at senior doctors taking the vaccine.
A few security guards who got vaccinated told they were assured of safety looking at senior doctors taking the vaccine.
Attribution: (Photo: Smitha TK/ The Quint)

To Be Extended to Private Hospitals Soon

On the second day, the Thanjavur Medical College Hospital saw 60 persons, the highest number, getting inoculated, including Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan who took the vaccine.

Pre vaccination performa that is filled out before vaccination
Pre vaccination performa that is filled out before vaccination
(Photo: Smitha TK/The Quint)

Several people from the medical fraternity across the country have lauded Tamil Nadu for strictly following the norms during vaccination. The procedure followed in Tamil Nadu begins with a healthcare staff registering online with the Cowin app. At the hospital, the person’s vitals such as blood pressure, oxygen saturation levels, temperature, are checked by the first vaccination officer. A pre-vaccination performa is provided where one needs to mention if he has other illnesses like sugar, varying blood pressure levels, history of coronavirus, asthma. If one shows symptoms of COVID-19 — fever, cold, cough, sore throat— then the vaccine is not administered to them. The person then goes to the verification room where he/she should submit a photo ID along with the registered form.

The state health secretary said even he was not allowed inside until he provided a government ID and an OTP to prove the same.

The person is then taken in for the vaccination, following which the beneficiary spends 30 minutes in the observation room for any possible reactions. The teams check blood pressure at different intervals before someone is allowed to leave.

“While the initial focus is on the government sector, the vaccination is free for HCW in private sector too. Gradually bigger private centres are also being permitted to start vaccination sites while the smaller ones near the government session sites are being requested to utilise the government facility to get vaccinated which will further improve the coverage in the coming days,” Dr Radhakrishnan told FIT.

“Let us join hands in chasing coronavirus. Let us show the commitment we had to handle this pandemic for this vaccine as well,” said a nurse from a Trichy government hospital.

(Subscribe to FIT on Telegram)

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