Three days after the third phase of the drive to vaccinate all individuals above the age of 45 (those with and without comorbidities) commenced on April 1, Thursday, 48,709 people in this age group in Bengaluru received their first dose by Saturday evening. But even as the Union government is aiming to cover this age group within a fortnight and experts have been encouraging citizens to get vaccinated as early as possible, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) officials said that the response in the city has been lukewarm. While the third phase has just begun, nodal officers of hospitals in Bengaluru have reported that, on average, they have been inoculating 20-25 people of the age group 45-59, those who do not have comorbidities.
For instance, Dr Tanveer, the Nodal Officer for vaccination at Bowring Hospital in Bengaluru, said that ever since the vaccination drive began on April 1, they have vaccinated nearly 100 people in the 45-59 age group. â€śWe have been vaccinating nearly 20 to 25 people every day who fall under the said category and have been striving to vaccinate as many people as we can and sooner,â€ť he said, adding that they have received lukewarm responses thus far.
Expressing disappointment over people not coming forward for the vaccination, a doctor from St Johnâ€™s hospital mentioned that they have vaccinated only 45 people since April 1. The doctor also said that they did not hold a session on April 2 due to Good Friday. He said, â€śWe have vaccinated 24 people on April 1 and 21 beneficiaries on April 3.â€ť
Meanwhile, CV Raman General Hospital has managed to vaccinate 300-350 people on an average until Saturday noon. Medical Superintendent Dr Radhakrishna said that people have become more accepting of the COVID-19 vaccine and the response has been fairly good.
Subsequently, Manipal Hospitalâ€™s staff said that as many as 3,000 people in this category have been vaccinated at the hospital so far. â€śOn a daily basis, we have been vaccinating as many as 1,000-1,200 people belonging to the age-group 45-59. No one has reported any adversities so far. This drive has been happening along with the vaccination for senior citizens and those with comorbidities,â€ť a staffer of the hospital said.
In order to prevent any wastage of the vaccine, Dr Tanveer said that they have been administering vaccines only after ensuring 20 beneficiaries turn up for the vaccination. Other hospitals said they have not had issues over wastage since they also facilitated a walk-in registration kiosk for the third phase. â€śWe have been registering people on the spot using their Aadhaar and have been administering vaccinations. Moreover, the old-age homes in the city have arranged transportation facilities with our assistance to get vaccinated,â€ť said Dr Sanjay Lewis of St Johnâ€™s hospital.
The nation-wide vaccination drive began on January 16 in a phased manner. The third phase began in Karnataka at a time when COVID-19 cases have been surging, which has put the hospitals in dilemma. While the Union government had directed all states to vaccinate the said group within two weeks, the hospitals are struggling to keep up with the increasing cases. â€śTo increase the vaccine coverage, we have to deploy more staff. But, we donâ€™t have enough staff since they are already working in the COVID-19 wards. If the COVID-19 cases in Bengaluru continue to surge, we may have to shift some staff from the vaccination duty to ward duty,â€ť noted Dr Lewis.
Officials of other hospitals also chimed in citing that it is an impossible feat to inoculate such a large population within a short span.
According to BBMP Health Department officials, they had aimed to complete the inoculation of the age group in two weeks. â€śWe have to follow the mandate. The target set by BBMP for vaccinating those in the age group 45-59 and do not have comorbidities was the same as the Union government had announced. Although, it is impossible to complete the vaccination within two weeks, especially when the turnout of beneficiaries is not known. It depends on the willingness of people to get vaccinated sooner. If we donâ€™t meet the target, we will eventually have to push it further,â€ť the official said.
Medical experts across the public and private health sector have stressed that vaccination is the biggest weapon against the COVID-19 at the moment, apart from following the basic precautions such as wearing a mask, washing hands regularly and maintaining physical distance.