COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among healthcare workers in Andhra Pradesh

A number of workers, including doctors, refused to take the jab January 16, the day of the vaccination drive

By G Ram Mohan
Published: Sunday 17 January 2021

The vaccination drive against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) took off in Andhra Pradesh January 16, 2021 with instances of vaccine hesitancy among healthcare workers coming to light.

The programme was kickstarted in the Tirupati maternity hospital with B Sudhir, an LDC (lower divisional clerk) taking the vaccine.

Covishield, manufactured by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India is the sole vaccine being administered in Andhra Pradesh.

However, vaccine hesitancy was witnessed as doctors on the beneficiary list refused to take the injection. “But by evening, of the 100 beneficiaries, 52 had taken the medicine,” V Kiran, public relations officer of the SVRR Hospital in Tirupati, said.

T Bharathi, superintendent of SVRR Hospital, accepted there was hesitancy among healthcare workers and even doctors.

However, the hospital’s deputy resident medical officer, EB Devi said, “The first list does not have many doctors. It has other healthcare workers. I will take the vaccine when my name comes in the list.”

Senior doctors could be seen goading and persuading their colleagues, citing the lack of any adverse reactions among the staff who took the vaccine shot. Some of the staff unwilling to take the jab refused to be quoted.

“As of today, the district has received 41,500 vials. All doctors will be covered in a week,” M Penchaliah, district medical and health officer, Chittoor, said.

State immunisation officer, Sri Hari, pegged the number of Covishield doses sent to Andhra Pradesh for immunisation at 477,000.

The state had received only 20,000 vials of Covaxin manufactured by Bharat Biotech International Ltd, that have been kept for use at a future date, he added.

“We got more doses of Covishield, so we are giving it now. In the first round, we are targeting 387,000 beneficiaries. All of them are healthcare workers. The number of frontline workers to benefit will be known after January 25, as the date for their enrolment closes on that day,” Hari said.

Andhra Pradesh has opened 1,697 new vaccination centres for COVID-19 so as not to disturb the regular drives. The vaccination will be done by the 17,000 auxiliary nurse midwives under doctors’ observation, Hari said.

“The guidelines for the mission have not been decided yet,” he added when queried on the days when the drive will be conducted.

Hari also talked about queries on the duration of the vaccination drive and difficulties of enrolment with the Co-WIN website. “It will depend on the availability of vaccine vials. Minor technical glitches in the software were overcome,” he said.

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