Jharkhand, one of the states with the lowest COVID vaccination coverage so far, is betting big on the upcoming Chhath Puja to boost numbers, its top officials told News18.com.
While government data shows the state has vaccinated about 60% of its population with the first dose and about 20% with the second dose, state officials say Jharkhand has vaccinated many people who have now migrated to other parts. Data with the state shows, that it vaccinated 1.5 crores of people with the first dose out of a total number of recipients of 2.4 crores while 33 people are still scheduled to take the second pending dose.
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Now, with the goal of achieving 100% coverage for the first dose by the end of Chhath Puja week (10 November), the state has started micro-level measures including door-to-door vaccinations, vaccine carts and deployment of call centers for counseling and reminders of due dates.
In fact, state health minister Bana Gupta told News18.com that while Jharkhand is fully prepared for the challenge and can vaccinate 5 people a day, the central government is discriminating against it and also running short of vaccine stocks.
“The government of Jharkhand is determined to prevent corona. We have done a good job with limited resources. The state government is also fully prepared for the vaccination programme. Our capacity is 5 lakh a day. But the central government is discriminating against us and we are lacking in vaccines. However, we are determined to give 100% vaccines. for the people of the state.
As of October 29, the state has a stock of 27 doses available.
“We were planning to go in mission mode and launch a campaign to vaccinate 3-5 people in one day. However, with a low balance of our available vaccines, mission mode is currently not feasible,” a bureaucrat working with the Jharkhand government told News18. com.
The state has begun to speed up the campaign by making plans at the county level.
“In light of the suboptimal Covid19 vaccination coverage and the very large number of eligible and late beneficiaries waiting for the second dose, there is an urgent need for districts to take drastic measures to manage Covid-19 vaccination by analyzing and targeting underperforming groups,” said Arun Kumar Singh, Secretary General. Additional State Health and Family Welfare, “to achieve coverage for all beneficiaries.”
Singh, in a letter dated October 25, instructed mission managers, district officers, civilian surgeons and state immunization officers to “take focused and targeted action” to maximize vaccination coverage.
Singh instructed officials to start planning at the micro level and to prepare a list of eligible beneficiaries of the election booth.
“Prepare the micro-plan to cover all eligible recipients, for the first dose and ‘deserving’ and ‘late’ recipients awaiting the second dose,” the letter read.
The “immigrant” barrier, initial hesitation and complacency
Odisha, a state with similar geographic areas to Jharkhand, vaccinated 2.5 crores of people with the first dose of the vaccine and about 1 crores of the population with the second dose – covering 57% and 24% of the population, respectively.
The central government established a maximum coverage of 77% for the first dose and 33% for the second dose – the national averages for the first and second dose, respectively. States where coverage is below the caps have been required to devise special strategies and increase the cap.
According to government officials in Jharkhand, the state has been struggling with the issue of migrant workers – people who work in other states and continue to return to their families.
We have vaccinated more than 60% of the population. In real time, our vaccines will exceed 70-75%. However, these people may have been migrant workers who moved out of the state once economic activity resumed.
This issue has been raised in internal meetings as well as with some countries that have vaccinated people who are not even part of their population.
“Now we plan to take advantage of the upcoming Chhath Puja opportunity, an occasion when everyone will go home. It will give the state government an excellent opportunity to start a door-to-door vaccination campaign,” the officer said.
The second dose was a challenge, the officer said. “Once the first dose is done, people tend to forget the 84-day period to book a second dose. We need to remind them,” he said, adding that 33 lakh people in the state deserve a second dose.
According to the new plan, officials will visit each home to check if the first and second doses have been taken by everyone, and if they are not vaccinated, they will be vaccinated immediately.
Considering the geography of Jharkhand which contains forested lands, the state has also launched 60 mobile immunization vehicles called ‘Tika Express’ with the aim of sending them to remote areas and villages.
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“All the deputy commissioners were asked via video conference to take a hard copy of the details of the people who are due to receive the first and second doses. They have been advised to open a call center and start contacting all those who have not taken their pending shots yet,” Singh said. Sending reminders via calls, if people are not willing to attend, counseling will also be done.”
Six months ago, the state was having difficulty convincing the village and tribal belts. However, it took the help of religious leaders such as Molvis, Pandits, and Padres to persuade the population to take the punches. These belts are not uneducated. Vaccine frequency is no longer a problem. Singh said our industrial zones are now fully fortified.