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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Can gradually open up vaccination, says AIIMS chief

According to Guleria, the challenge is to balance the doses available “with the number of people we can vaccinate based on the priority list”.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: April 3, 2021 8:12:38 pm
Dr Randeep Gulleria, Dr Randeep Gulleria on coronavirus, Randeep Gulleria on coronavirus, coronavirus india cases, india news, indian expressAIIMS chief Dr Randeep Guleria. (File)

As the country enters the third phase of its Covid vaccination drive, AIIMS chief Dr Randeep Guleria said the need of the hour is to inoculate more people and gradually open up to cover lower age groups — but this has to be balanced with the availability of vaccines.

Speaking at The Indian Express Idea Exchange e-event Friday, Guleria said: “We are a very large country and if we were to say that we would want to vaccinate the entire adult population for which the vaccine has been currently approved, then that would mean close to one billion people. We will need two billion doses and there is no way that we could get two billion doses if we have to open it up for everyone.”

According to Guleria, the challenge is to balance the doses available “with the number of people we can vaccinate based on the priority list”.

“So what I think one needs to do is to see how the trend is and if you find that after a week or 10 days, the number of people coming for vaccination are falling, open it up for a lower age group and gradually do that. There are people in the lower age group who are wanting to be vaccinated whereas others who are in the older age group meet the criteria but still are reluctant and not willing to take the vaccine but are holding up the line,” he said.

The vaccination drive, which kicked off on January 16, has been witnessing a lukewarm response with several states still not being able to meet the target of inoculating their healthcare and frontline workers.

“On Thursday, we opened up the vaccination for 45 years and above and we received a huge response. At AIIMS, Delhi we have five vaccination sites and normally we do 100 per site and on an average we vaccinate 600 beneficiaries daily. On Thursday, we vaccinated 996 people and we thought we would cross the 1000 mark. But these are early days, if this continues then we are in a very good position. But let’s say after 10 days we see only 50% of the people coming, that means we are reaching a saturation point for those who want to get themselves vaccinated. So maybe we should lower the age group now,” Guleria said.

According to the AIIMS chief, it should be mandatory for healthcare workers directly involved in patient care to take the shot. “When we look at the data from our hospital, 50% of healthcare workers have not come forward. Unlike the general public, there is more vaccine hesitancy in the healthcare workers because of the reading and worrying about the things that don’t matter. I have argued with them that the drive is not for them but for their patients. It should be mandatory for all the healthcare working in the hospital for the safety of their patients,” Guleria said.

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