December 6, 2021 10:35:45 pm
The state government Monday ordered the setting up of call centres in all districts under the ‘dastak on phones’ programme to encourage 98 lakh beneficiaries, who have either missed or delayed their second dose of vaccination, to get fully immunized.
Although the state has administered 11.84 crore doses till December 5 — the second highest in India after Uttar Pradesh — only 46.49 per cent (4.25 crore people) of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated, lower than the national average of 51 per cent.
Till December 4,85,46,626 beneficiaries in the state who took the first dose of Covishield haven’t taken their second jab, while another 12,66,261 people after taking the first jab have missed the second one.
Amid rising Omicron cases, Dr Pradeep Vyas, additional chief secretary, directed districts to establish call centres to convince beneficiaries overdue for the second dose. He said calling up beneficiaries who have missed the second dose has appeared “fruitful” in a few districts.
“Individual line listing is available in the district though the CoWin Portal, where we can even get mobile numbers of beneficiaries who may be called through call centres and other mechanisms to come forward and take their second dose of Covid vaccine.”
District-wise, the call-centres will be managed by the state’s IT department under the programme ‘dastak on phones’. Frontline and healthcare workers will be responsible for running the call centres.
“Earlier during the peak of the pandemic, we had a helpline number to answer queries from people…now the process has been reversed — we will call the beneficiaries,” said Dr Sachin Desai, state surveillance officer.
According to data from the public health department, Pune has the highest number of beneficiaries (13,03,815) overdue for the second dose, followed by Mumbai with 7,28,481, Kolapur (5,45,274), Thane (5,45,711) and Nagpur (4,93,043).
‘1.55 crore unvaccinated people can drive third wave’
The state has an estimated adult population of 9.14 crore. Till December 5, a total of 7.59 crore people have been vaccinated either with the first or both doses, while the remaining 1.55 crore are yet to take the jab.
Dr Vyas said this gap in mass immunization can contribute to the third wave of the infection. He instructed all districts, especially Thane, Nashik, Jalgaon, Ahmednagar, Nanded and Solapur, where the vaccination gap is ‘very large’, to increase the rate of full immunization.
“This number is equal to the eligible population in some of the smaller states in our country and it being a very large cohort can generate critical mass and drive a third wave of Covid infection,” read a second letter sent by Dr Vyas on Monday.
The district health officers and collectors have cited several reasons behind this gap, like hesitancy among people with the flattening of the pandemic curve, the log time gap between the two doses of Covishield and initial unavailability of vials.
“When the mass immunization programme started in January, all focus was on cities while rural districts lagged behind. Now, as cases have fallen and people residing in the tribal and rural areas of the state…aren’t coming forward for vaccination. It is a daily struggle…” said a collector from one of these six districts.
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