As the state is preparing to chalk out a Covid-19 vaccination programme, an analysis of just how many opted for a shot against three prevalent strains of influenza in the last five years shows that only 3.7 lakh people from three high-risk groups took the jab. Fewer than 60-70,000 people take the trivalent vaccine against influenza every year and of these, at least 75 per cent are pregnant women, the analysis by the state health department indicated.
From July 2015 till November 2020, as many as 3,71,736 people had taken the trivalent vaccine against influenza (three strains – Influenza B, H1N1 and H3N2). At least 2,82,558 pregnant women had taken the trivalent vaccine from July 2015 to November 2020 while 49,483 people with comorbidities like diabetes and hypertension took the flu shot in the past five years.
According to the state health department, there were just 41,714 healthcare workers who took the flu shot in the past five years. The number has come down to a couple of thousand this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown. For instance, just 3,412 healthcare workers took the vaccination against influenza this year while 4,280 people with diabetes and hypertension were vaccinated. According to the data, 28,252 pregnant women were vaccinated against influenza this year.
In 2019, 65,937 people took the jab of which 40,626 were pregnant women, 11,760 had diabetes and hypertension and 13,551 were healthcare workers. In 2018, there were a total of 1,28,026 people who were vaccinated of which 85,290 were pregnant women, 23,852 had hypertension and diabetes and 18,884 were healthcare workers. In 2017, 42,492 people were vaccinated of which 38,170 were pregnant women, 1,931 had diabetes and hypertension and 2,391 were healthcare workers. In 2015-16, 1,01,356 were vaccinated of which 90,220 were pregnant women, 7,660 had diabetes and hypertension and 3,476 were healthcare workers.
State surveillance officer Dr Pradip Awate, who has taken the trivalent vaccine, told The Indian Express that Maharashtra is the only state where pregnant women get vaccinated against influenza. He said there were limited number of takers for the vaccine and speculated that it could be a kind of fatigue as not many are willing to take the trivalent vaccine against influenza every year. Dr M S Chadha, a former scientist who headed the national influenza centre at National Institute of Virology, said she has been taking the vaccine for more than a decade now. “Flu shots are very common in western countries and immunity lasts for eight to nine months. Apart from the lack of awareness, there is also a tendency not to take it every year,” Chadha said. The medical fraternity should recommend the vaccine against influenza, she added.
On vaccine hesitancy
Dr V S Chauhan, emeritus professor at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), New Delhi, said if there is proper information along with clear and coherent policies for the Covid-19 vaccine, India will definitely accept the vaccine. “India has a good universal immunisation programme and along with Brazil, Argentina and South Africa, has a much better vaccine acceptability than most of the developed world. Data showing the efficacy of the vaccine will emerge in only four to five months post-vaccine administration and reaching a herd immunity of 70 per cent will take a long time. There are a lot of unknowns and vaccine response will emerge only post vaccination in the field. So, it is recommended that while this happens, testing and tracing remain a priority as this is crucial to counter Covid-19,” Chauhan said.