Government must expand Covid vaccination centres as more people come forward to get inoculated

For the vaccination drive in Manipur to succeed and to prevent a disastrous fallout, the state government must take speedy actions to fix the drawbacks in the vaccination process.


A vaccination centre in Manipur (Photo: IFP)

 

THE government of India has been announcing high number of COVID-19 vaccine beneficiaries in the country, second to the United States in the world. The Manipur government too has been pushing the Covid vaccination drive all across the state. The initial launch of the vaccination saw very few turnout of people for the vaccination. Many were reluctant to get the jab for fear of experiencing the possible adverse effects of the vaccine as rumours about the negative fallouts of it have been widely circulating in social media. However, as the number of daily new cases began to rise, the state has been witnessing an increasing number of people willing to get the vaccination. Lately, more people are coming forward to get inoculated. Considering the recent rise in "vaccination willingness" among the people, if the Nationwide Vaccination Drive must succeed, there is an urgent need to fix the drawbacks in the Covid vaccination process reported by those who are trying to avail the vaccination or who managed to hit the vaccination sites or got the Covid vaccine dose.

There is no doubt that, amid the serious concern and doubts hovering over COVID-19 vaccines in India, the government has been making all-out efforts for the success of Covid vaccination of people who are 18 years of age and above in the country.

The government fact checking team has even made attempts to bust the myths surrounding the Covid vaccine and the vaccination programme and clear all doubts and remove the fear of getting the vaccination.

In Manipur too, the state government has been urging the people to get vaccinated since the launch of the vaccination drive in the state in January. Each district administration has been spreading awareness about the safety and benefits of taking the vaccine and urging people to come for the vaccination at specific vaccination sites organised by the Covid task force. The administration's effort for increased vaccination has reached remote villages today with the help of volunteers and the security forces. The security forces even used innovative approaches to draw more people for vaccination.  

In the initial stage, amid rumours of the danger of the vaccine, most people were reluctant to get vaccinated. However, as the number of COVID-19 positive cases continued to soar in the wake of the second wave of the pandemic, the fear of the disease is driving more and more people to vaccination centres.

While over 21.3 crore vaccine doses have been administered countrywide so far, the total number of people who have been administered COVID-19 vaccine in Manipur reached 3,82,352 on May 30, as per the latest update from the state health department.

The state is now witnessing a marked willingness among the people, particularly those between the age of 18 to 44, to get vaccinated. More and more people are rushing for vaccination and the centres across the state are beginning to get crowded. The rush at some of the vaccination sites may backfire and defeat the purpose of the vaccination if the crowd is not monitored or strict SOP is not maintained  by those coming for the vaccination.

The increasing number of people coming for vaccination at the centres has sparked off fear and panic among the people of an adverse fallout--contracting the disease from each other in the crowded centres. Amid the concern, some are reluctant to head for the vaccination centres though there is a willingness.

Taking serious note of the concern raised, there is an urgent need to expand the number of vaccination centres in the state. This Imphal Free Press reporter tried to reach the authority concerned for details regarding it through the telephone, but failed to get any response till the time of filing this report.

Apart from the need to increase the number of vaccination centres, there is also the problem of reservation vaccination schedules online.

Although there is an increased willingness to get the COVID-19 vaccination and the government may assume its vaccine strategy is working, the younger age group is facing the problem of reservation of vaccination schedules online due to the short time slot of booking.

It was on May 17 that the Manipur government rolled out the COVID-19 vaccination programme for the 18-44 years age group. The Central government had flagged off the programme on May 1. Considering mass vaccination as one of the important strategies to flatten the curve of the pandemic, the Union government launched the vaccination programme across the country in a phased manner.

Now, the vaccination programme for the age group 18 to 44 is made accessible only to people who are registered online using the CoWIN platform, Aarogya Setu or UMANG app to avoid overcrowding. Apart from it, the Centre on May 23 issued a notification to allow on-site registration or walk-in registration with an objective to prevent vaccine wastage and include people who do not have access to the internet or mobile phone. But this feature is applicable only at government COVID Vaccine Centre (CVCs) and can be used only upon decision of the respective states or Union territories.

Vaccination centre in manipur

(PHOTO: IFP)

In line with it, the Manipur government is also implementing the programme in a well-organised manner by setting up several vaccination sites at many places that fall within the jurisdiction of all the districts of the state as the state has a good number of youth population. Besides the state government, local volunteers at many places are assisting the health department to make the vaccination more successful.

The state received 39,000 vaccine doses for the vaccination of 18-44 years of age group. As per data available with the state health department, within 10 days of vaccination that started on May 17, the total number of people vaccinated as on May 26 was 23280. 

To scale up the number of vaccinations, a review meeting of the core vaccination committee members was held under the chairmanship of state mission director on May 21. The meeting resolved to relax the limitation of 150 beneficiaries per session. They also took the decision that the district may set their session target as per available vaccine stocks, logistics and manpower. Along with this, each district may increase the number of Covid vaccine centres over and above the existing centres.

When the vaccine was first launched in the state, people were hesitant to get vaccinated for fear of the myth around about Covid vaccination. But sharing of the vaccine experiences by the beneficiaries of the Covid vaccine reduced the fear to some extent.

During a field survey on May 26, this Imphal Free Press reporter found increased willingness among the people to get Covid vaccination. The hesitation for the vaccination has reduced to a great extent. During the survey, this reporter visited around seven vaccination centres of Imphal East and Imphal West districts.

While interacting with several people in the 18-44 years age group, they expressed frustration in getting reservation for vaccination as the time slot of online booking ends within a few minutes.

Those who came for the vaccination at the centres suggested that the state government should increase the number of vaccination centres to scale up the rate of vaccination among this youngest group for Covid vaccination.

During the visit at the RD Wing Lamphelpat, a young boy in his 20s, a resident of Thangmeiband area, said that he got registered for vaccination hoping that it would help to prevent the infection to some extent.

"In the beginning I was scared to get vaccinated because of the several false information about the side effects and myth of the vaccine on social media. But later I realised that it would be much better to get vaccinated. I got registered for the vaccination on May 23 and got my schedule for it today only," he added.

Pointing out the setback in online booking for the vaccination, he said that the process of registration is easy and was completed without any hassle in a few minutes. But getting his schedule is the main problem because the time slot for booking is short.

"I think the number of target sessions for vaccination provided in a day is lesser than the number of people applied for vaccination. Had the state government increased the number of vaccination centres and extended the slot, the motivation level for vaccination would be more," he suggested.

Another beneficiaries of the vaccination programme from Sagolband Tera Lukram Leirak, who got vaccinated at RD Wing, Akashchand Haobam said that the kind of service given during the vaccination is very appreciative and felt grateful. They observe the beneficiaries properly after administering the vaccine for 30 minutes for any adverse effects. However, he also faced a similar problem of not having enough time slots in reserving the vaccine schedule. He also suggested the need to maintain punctuality by staff of the RD wing on vaccination duty.

He said that the vaccination time was scheduled from 10 am to 12 noon and 2 pm to 4 pm for the afternoon session. But the vaccination programme did not begin in time which led to the crowding at the centre. "The beneficiaries would be more grateful if concerned staff maintain the scheduled timing of vaccination," he stated while appealing to people of the state to get themselves vaccinated to break the chain of the pandemic and bring normalcy in the state.

One of the beneficiaries who was waiting for her turn for vaccination at Singjamei Urban Health Centre, Thongam Sophia from Kha Naorem Leikai, who is in her thirties, said that considering to get vaccinated is one such contribution to combat the ongoing pandemic and the fear of severity of second wave, she had applied for registration to get herself vaccinated.

Sophia reached the vaccination centre one hour ahead of this reporter. But she had to wait for a few more minutes to get her turn for vaccination as there were more than 20 beneficiaries before her. She said that some people were skeptical about the vaccine though it was produced to save life from this dreaded virus. It would be good for all people to stop listening to false information about the vaccine.

"We the youth have an important role to play to contain this pandemic. Therefore, if anyone faces a dilemma on whether to vaccinate or not due to certain reasons, please consult a physician and take a decision instead of wasting time in listening to rumours and false information about the vaccine," she appealed to the people.

Meanwhile, Medical Officer, Urban Primary Health Centre, Sangaipat, Dr Dayarani Takhelmayum said that the vaccination programme is being conducted at the centre smoothly with the help of local volunteers. They play a crucial role in crowd management during the vaccination programme. She said that a target session is fixed based on availability of the vaccine. Today, the number of vaccines received by UPH, Sangaipat was just 100. Of it, 88 people were inoculated till the time this reporter visited the site.

Dayarani continued that sometimes people failed to turn up on their scheduled day due to various reasons such as health problems or declaration of a containment zone. Such conditions hamper them to vaccinate a targeted number of beneficiaries. This results in the problem of vaccine wastage.

Mentioning the recent notification about walk-in registration for COVID-19 vaccination, she said that the steps would be helpful to reduce vaccine wastage. However, it may create overcrowding in the vaccination site and may bring another fallout.

"All must inculcate COVID appropriate behaviour and stick to SoPs as habitual action by every individual even after vaccination. This will help check the pandemic," she said.

One of the volunteers, who is serving the people during the vaccination programme held at Naoremthong Community Hall, said that they set the target of 200 beneficiaries for the day and of it, 137 people received the dose.

The young volunteer further said that everyone is equally responsible to combat the pandemic. With this view, he assured support to the vaccination programme to ensure that the programme goes off smoothly and everyone is vaccinated safely.

"We are strictly monitoring the people to ensure they follow SoPs. People should change their mindset towards COVID-19 by seriously following Covid-19 appropriate behaviour. However, most people tend to ignore social distancing. As a volunteer, we want every individual to vaccinate safely and hence we earnestly want all to follow COVID-19 appropriate behaviour without fail. Our discipline matters to eliminate the pandemic," he added.

As there are many people who are eagerly waiting to reserve a slot for COVID-19 vaccination, the state government should address the time slot and consider expanding vaccination centres at the earliest while people are willing to get vaccinated.

The government must take speedy action while the vaccination willingness last lest the drawbacks in the vaccination process keep people away from being inoculated and the state vaccination programme fails. The state government should not delay in arranging all requirements to open more vaccination centres to prevent disastrous resultant fallouts of the vaccination drive in the state.

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First Published:May 27, 2021, 6:35 p.m.

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