A set of statistics presented by the NITI Aayog on Thursday, May 13 has re-emphasised Tamil Nadu's low efficiency in ensuring vaccination against COVID-19 for its citizens. According to the latest figures presented on Thursday, the state has only managed to vaccinate 14% of its population above the age of 45. It stood last in the country on this count, even behind Nagaland and Uttar Pradesh.
These abysmal vaccination numbers, according to experts and the present DMK government, are a result of a combination of factors. This includes vaccine hesitancy due to communication gaps, low risk perception amongst the public and overall mismanagement of the vaccine campaign. Overall, 49,37,244 persons have been given the first dose and 18,01,679 persons have been given the second dose in the state.
"First of all we have a lot of vaccine hesitancy due to misinformation circulating on social media. That itself has had a huge impact because people didn't come forward to take the vaccine. Second issue is low risk perception. Many people whom I tried to counsel were convinced that the coronavirus is gone," National Institute of Epidemiology deputy director Dr Prabhadeep Kaur, who is part of the state's expert medical committee for prevention and management of COVID-19, said. "Since we had elections, with rallies and meetings, it didn't even seem like we had a pandemic. As cases didn't increase for a few weeks people assumed the pandemic was over. And finally, our vaccination programme was slow to take off. It was only done in hospitals and was not a community centric programme across the country," she added.
She also pointed out that the hesitancy from April onwards left a lasting impact on the vaccination numbers.
State Finance Minister Palanivel Thiyagarajan, meanwhile, alleged that the numbers indicate that the previous AIADMK government didn't take a proactive stance when it came to awareness and communication about the vaccine.
"They also failed to take stock of when vaccines will be arriving, what is the best way to distribute them and what kind of doubts would be there in people's minds," says the Minister. "The initial wastage of vaccines was above 8%. They didn't tailor their plans according to this. One side there was a low rate of vaccination and on the other there was high wastage. This means your system is broken," he adds.