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Thursday, October 21, 2021

PM Modi’s 71st birthday gift: Assam targets to vaccinate 8 lakh people on September 17

As of September 16, Assam has vaccinated 1.7 crore people with at least one dose (more than 75 per cent of its eligible population) while only 39.1 lakh (16 per cent) have received both their doses.

Written by Tora Agarwala | New Delhi |
Updated: September 16, 2021 8:16:56 pm
Beneficiaries wait in a queue to receive Covid-19 vaccine dose, at a centre in Nagaon district of Assam, Aug. 18, 2021. (PTI Photo)

For the ‘71st birthday gift’ for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Assam will activate 4,000 Covid vaccination centres on September 17 to inoculate at least eight lakh people on the day. The government has already initiated a door-to-door mobilisation, scheduled bulk SMSes and dispatched guardian ministers to all the districts to raise awareness about the mega drive.

The drive, health officials in Assam said, is also aimed at making up for the low count of second dose vaccinations in the state. As of September 16, Assam has vaccinated 1.7 crore people with at least one dose (more than 75 per cent of its eligible population) while only 39.1 lakh (16 per cent) have received both their doses.

While supply and hesitancy were impediments earlier, officials in the Health Department said many in the state, after getting the first dose, have become “non-committal” about the second dose. Additionally, there is a lack of awareness among some people about getting the second dose — especially in the rural areas.

“We are aiming to bridge that gap. These kinds of mega vaccination drives give a big push, and are confidence-building measures motivating people to participate,” said Lakshmanan S, Assam’s Mission Director of the National Health Mission.

Moreover, he added, the drive has been timed so that the 9.75 lakh who got their first dose during the three-day mega vaccination drive held between June 21-23, can get their second shot.

For that, the health department has identified and activated the same CVCs which had administered the doses during the June drive, sent bulk messages to those who are due for the shot, supplied surplus doses required in each CVC, placed ads in local papers and TV channels, as well as directed government teachers, ASHA workers and village-level functionaries to carry out door-to-door campaigns to ensure people do not miss their second dose.

“We have made preparations for eight lakh doses, but our target is seven lakh. Our best one-day-record, so far, has been 4.5 lakh doses, which we achieved on August 17 — so this is nearly double of that,” said Lakshmanan.

For the exercise, a team of five-six health workers will be present at each CVC. “The target is about 200-250 shots per CVC — but the special focus is on areas that have low coverage,” said Munindra Nath Ngatey, director of health services (family welfare) as well as state nodal officer for Covid vaccination.

He added that while the pace of vaccination was slightly slow in the initial months, it “really picked up mid-August” due to a number of steps by the state government. “A big boost was when we began vaccinating people, even without photo IDs, as per the Central government rules. We also introduced mobile vaccination vans to reach the remote char (riverine islands) and hilly areas. But one of our other ideas was to turn polling booths into vaccination centres and use electoral rolls to identify those left out. With the help of booth-level officers and local ASHAs, we were able to cover a vast number of people, especially in rural areas. It’s still ongoing,” he said.

While the aim of the vaccination drive is to ostensibly boost the number of second doses, Ngatey said it was obviously open for anyone to get their first shots too.

In a video message appealing to people to come out in vast numbers for the drive, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said, “To truly win the fight over Covid, just taking the first dose is not enough, we have to take the second too. Tomorrow is Honourable Prime Minister Modi’s birthday and our finest gift to him would be to ensure the huge success of the mega vaccination drive on September 17.”

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