More than 100 million Indians have not shown up to take a second Covid-19 vaccine dose, revealed official government data, even as India celebrated the milestone of administering a billion doses more than a week ago.
Experts said this “vaccine truancy” could lead to yet another outbreak of the virus in the country if it is not taken seriously.
Satyajit Rath, a scientist at the National Institute of Immunology, however, told The Guardian newspaper that the figure of more than 100 million people who never got second doses will not be alarming if they eventually get their jabs.
But he added that “if a larger percentage of people are coming in late, then it is concerning.”
The Indian government has claimed it will inoculate the country’s entire eligible population by the end of this year — a landmark which health experts say will not likely happen, thanks to vaccine shortages during the earlier phases of the country’s vaccination drive.
To tackle “vaccine truancy”, the country’s health minister Mansukh Mandaviya has urged states to address the issue. He said that from the next month onward, officials will be designated to make door-to-door visits to find those who skipped their second vaccine jabs.
Bhavna Dewan, a health worker in Uttarakhand in north India, was quoted by the Guardian as saying: “We have seen this complacency with tuberculosis patients. They start taking the drugs and after a few weeks, they feel better so they stop even though they have to take them for six months.”
She said that it’s a “similar mentality with the vaccine. I’m sure they feel one dose is enough because no one is falling ill.”
So far, India has administered the first doses to 726 million people — 77 per cent of its 944 million adults — and second doses to 321 million, or approximately 34 per cent, according to the country’s federal health ministry.
The number of Covid-19 cases have steadily been going down across the country. On Thursday, India reported 14,348 fresh cases, almost 11 per cent lesser than on Wednesday.
Given that experts have said that a third wave is a remote prospect now in the country, several experts believe people have begun thinking the worst is over.
Dr Rath, meanwhile, has tried to allay fears. “If people have always dallied a little in coming in for their second dose, maybe coming a week or two or a month later than prescribed because they were busy, then it is not alarming,” he said.
“It simply means that many of these 103.4 million people will catch up.”
India has also applied for loans from the Asian Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to procure about 667 million doses of Covid vaccines, reported The Hindu newspaper.
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