The jab is voluntary, my dear
IFP Editorial: Nobody asks you whether you have any past allergies or health issues. Perhaps, this is the basic problem leading to deaths after taking the shot. Not everyone dies after taking the shot, but even one or two deaths is enough to scare away the rest.
Even as the Union government declared free vaccination for citizens aged 18 and above, many are still reluctant. The awareness campaigns in various forms of the media is still not getting its desired effect in many parts of country. Yet, some innovative ideas have come up to convince people to get themselves vaccinated early. An Arunachal Pradesh government officer’s offer of free 20 kgs of rice as an incentive for getting vaccinated against Covid-19 has broken through the reluctance among some residents aged above 45 years and managed to accelerate the vaccination drive in Lower Subansiri district. The incentive was planned by Yazali circle officer Tashi Wangchhu Thongdok, and it successfully lured the residents to the vaccination center. Yazali has a population of around 12,000 and nearly 1,400 of its residents are above 45 years. While 84 per cent of these residents had received their due doses, the remaining 209 residents were unwilling despite the administration’s attempts to vaccinate them at home.
Meanwhile in Manipur, an MLA has been accused of threatening to withhold the free rice quota announced by the government if one does come out for vaccination. Five kgs of free rice for every person in the family. The statewide lockdown and restrictions have robbed many sections of the society of their means of livelihood, which is exactly why Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced free distribution of rice to ease the worries of the public. Even as some MLAs are unwilling to distribute in full the quota of five kgs of rice using excuses one way or the other, an MLA threatening to cut off free rice for those unwilling to get the jab is pure blackmail and a crime. Perhaps, he does not understand that the present vaccination is purely voluntary in nature as per clarifications issued by the Union government.
What the state government needs to seriously consider is throwing up innovative ideas to convince sections of the reluctant public so that they come out willingly for the vaccine shot. We know it is not that easy, as the state has already seen two deaths after getting the shot, besides many others in the rest of the country. In Thoubal district, a 37-year-old teacher died hours after receiving the first dose of Covishield vaccine. This is not the first case of death after receiving the vaccine. In February this year, an Anganwadi worker in Bishnupur district died after getting the Covid-19 vaccine shot. Anganwadi workers and helpers are among the front-line warriors who received the priority shot. With her death, many Anganwadi workers stayed away from the vaccination drive out of fear.
As rumour mills continue to roll, the state health society had issued an office memorandum directing all the CMOs, DFWO, DIOs, MSs of government and private hospitals to enquire about the history of allergies and medications and treatment for other diseases before vaccination. For the age group 18-44, one has to simply register in the COWIN website provide mobile number and Aadhaar details, and you are in the system till the call comes. Not even a basic questionnaire on past health issues was included in the registration process. A short inquiry by a doctor about the past history of allergies and medications and treatment for other diseases before vaccination was indeed a necessity. In practice, nobody follows the directives or guidelines given by the health authorities. Once you get the call, you report to the designated vaccination centre, a nurse gives you the shot and tells you to rest for 30 minutes before leaving the place. Nobody asks you whether you have any past allergies or health issues. Perhaps, this is the basic problem leading to deaths after taking the shot. Not everyone dies after taking the shot, but even one or two deaths is enough to scare away the rest. Now, a wider consultation is required for ideas and incentives to convince the public. In this, the cooperation of every MLA and other public leaders is required and the state government should not shy away from approaching the opposition also.