Only 34% of senior citizens get third dose

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DESPITE THE ongoing surge in Covid-19 cases in the state only 34.5 per cent of the eligible population above 60 years have taken the precautionary dose or the third dose. The response to the door-to-door drive under the ‘Har Ghar Dastak’ hasn’t been fruitful due to vaccine hesitancy among the elderly.
According to the data provided by the public health department, there are around 60 lakh people above 60 years in Maharashtra, who are eligible for the precautionary dose but only 20.7 lakh have taken it. Only 10 districts in Maharashtra have higher vaccine coverage in the 60-year age group than the state’s average.
As of July 6, Mumbai with 50 per cent vaccine coverage, followed by Jalgaon (47.8 per cent) and Thane (46 per cent) are leading the tally. The districts of Nanded (14.75 per cent) and Buldhana (14.97 per cent) are placed lowest in the tally.
Savita Munde, a 34-year-old Asha worker in Nanded said that despite the torrential rainfall, they travel across the districts but the villagers refuse to take vaccines. “As it is voluntary, we can’t force them. The situation with the elderly is more challenging due to the high prevalence of vaccine hesitancy. Also, many of them had developed fever or body ache in the first doses, so now they refuse to take it completely due to pre-conceived notions,” she said.
As the recent surge hasn’t spread to the rural and smaller districts, the elderly are hesitant to take the third dose despite repeated counselling. “Even in our door-to-door drive, people are refusing to take the third dose. The eagerness for vaccines has faded off with the flattening of the pandemic curve in these districts,” said Dr Sachin Desai, state immunisation officer. “Overall, the response of the third dose in all age categories is less.”
Booster doses or the precautionary doses for frontline workers and people above the age of 60 years were started on January 10 for free in the public sector. Globally, several studies have shown that vaccines are one of the most important strategies to prevent severe illness and mortality.
“We need to understand the importance of vaccines and convince people to take their precautionary doses so that the virus can be controlled. Many people have still not taken their booster shots which is why we need to go back to Information, Education and Communication and get the message across that vaccines can save lives,” said Dr Rahul Pandit, a member of the Covid-19 task force.
Recently, the Union government reduced the gap between the second dose and precautionary shot to six months from the existing nine months for all adults. With this, the officials believe that the footfall of the beneficiaries would increase gradually.
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