On day one of the Covid-19 vaccination drive in Punjab, a total of 1,327 beneficiaries, including doctors and other frontline healthcare workers turned up for taking the vaccine shot, as against the target of 5,853 in 22 districts of Punjab.
With this, the state achieved merely 22.67 per cent of the target it had set for day one. Apart from doubts over the vaccine’s safety, the other reason for the low target rate was a glitch in the Co-WIN digital platform which was used to register beneficiaries and inform them about vaccination sites.
Dr GB Singh, Director Health, Punjab, said, “The portal which is under the central ministry started working very late.” He added, “Not a single case of any complication or adversity after vaccination was reported in Punjab.”
Speaking to The Indian Express, Punjab Health Secretary Hussan Lal and Dr GB Singh said that apprehension and doubts among frontline healthcare workers was also one of the three reasons for low numbers. To remove those apprehensions, doctors themselves took the lead and got vaccinated most districts. So, the numbers were expected to improve in coming days, both said.
In Ferozepur district, just two persons – a doctor and a Class IV employee from sub-divisional hospital in Zira – got themselves vaccinated. Ferozepur recorded the lowest number in single digits (2) against the target of 300 to be vaccinated.
As per district-wise break-up from 59 sites in 22 districts, the highest number was recorded in Ludhiana (214) which had five designated sites and target of 500 (100 at each site) and the lowest in Ferozepur where just two persons (a doctor and Class IV employee) got themselves vaccinated.
Two other districts where more than a hundred persons were vaccinated were Gurdaspur and Jalandhar. A total of 136 persons were vaccinated in Jalandhar against target of 300 and 108 persons were vaccinated in district Gurdaspur against a target of 300.
Among other districts, 78 persons in Amritsar (against target of 300), 15 in Barnala (against target of 200), 36 in Bathinda (target 300), 58 in Faridkot (target 300), 54 in Fatehgarh Sahib (target 300), 26 in Fazilka (target 200), 64 in Hoshiarpur (target 276), 64 in Kapurthala (target 266), 45 in Mansa (target 100), 25 in Moga (target 200), 16 in Pathankot (target 100), 62 in Patiala (target 300), 64 in Rupnagar (target 300), 51 in Sangrur (target 300), 36 in Mohali (target 300), 37 in SBS Nagar (target 200), 51 in Muktsar Sahib (target 200) and 85 in Tarn Taran (target 311) — were vaccinated.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Dr Rajinder Raj, Civil Surgeon, Ferozepur, where just two from healthcare staff got themselves vaccinated, said, “A doctor and class-IV employee from our sub-divisional hospital in Zira got themselves vaccinated. We had target of 100 persons per site (300 with three sites in Ferozepur) but only 2 turned up for vaccination even as we have received more than 4,000 registrations (government and private hospitals staff combined). There are still many apprehensions and doubts related to vaccine even in the minds of doctors not just other healthcare workers. We even tried to counsel doctors and telephonically contacted those who had registered, but they did not turn up for vaccination.”
Ludhiana Civil Surgeon Dr Sukhjiwan Kakkar, the district where the maximum 214 persons were vaccinated, said that they fell short of achieving target of 500 because the drive started later than scheduled time, the portal Co-WIN on which beneficiaries had to register developed glitches since Friday and because of apprehensions and scare in the minds of healthcare workers.
“Doctors took the lead to remove the doubts in the minds of healthcare workers. Most of doctors got vaccinated today at Civil Hospital. We are hopeful that soon nurses, ward attendants, class IV employees etc will too come ahead for vaccination after seeing doctors getting vaccinated,” said Dr Kakkar, adding that in Ludhiana, five sites — Civil Hospital, Ludhiana, Dayanand Medical College and Hospital (DMCH), Christian Medical College and Hospital (CMCH) and two sub-divisional hospitals in Jagraon and Khanna — were the designated sites for vaccination.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Dr G B Singh, Director Health, Punjab, said that though only 1,327 persons (mostly doctors) could be vaccinated on day one in Punjab against target of 5,853, the best part was that not a single case of any complication or adversity was reported in entire state after vaccination drive started.
“We could achieve 22 per cent of the target for day one but not a single case of any complication or adversity among beneficiaries was reported in entire state which is a very positive sign. We did not force anyone to get vaccinated today. It was all voluntarily and since healthcare workers including nurses, lab technicians, ward attendants among other frontline workers, too had some apprehensions and fears related to the vaccine, the number was a bit low on day one. It is a totally new vaccine and there was worst publicity and rumor mongering. We hope numbers will pick up soon seeing doctors who themselves got vaccinated today,” said Dr GB Singh.
Hussan Lal said that there were mainly three reasons for the target not being achieved in Punjab on day one. “Firstly, we got late in starting vaccination drive in all districts and schedule was delayed. Secondly, there were glitches in the app on which beneficiaries were registered and their data had to be recorded. It had stopped working for some time. Thirdly, our frontline health workers including nurses, pharmacists, lab technicians, sanitation workers and other class-IV employees working in the hospitals, still had some doubts over the safety of the vaccine and did not get themselves vaccinated. There was hesitation and doctors volunteered to remove those hesitations. On day one, mostly it is the doctors who got themselves vaccinated. Today, we had only called frontline health workers working in hospitals such as nurses, pharmacists, lab technicians, sanitation workers and other class-IV employees for the vaccination. The number will improve in coming days.”
In the first batch, Punjab had received 2.04 lakh doses of Covishield and the state targets to vaccinate 1.74 healthcare workers. Lal said that though centre has communicated that the second dose which has to be given to beneficiaries vaccinated on Saturday after 28 days has to be managed from the first batch of 2.04 lakh doses only, it is expected that second batch of 2 lakh more doses will arrive soon. “If they are not received, then we have to plan and manage second dose from first batch only after 28 days,” said Lal.
Meanwhile, Dr Gurpreet Wander (60), head cardiologist and Dr Bishav Mohan (52), medical superintendent, Hero DMC Heart Institute, Ludhiana — both counted among the country’s top cardiologists, were among the first to get vaccinated in Ludhiana.
Dr Mohan, who also executed two heart surgeries after getting vaccinated, said, “It is all safe and I did not feel any complication. I did two complicated heart surgeries after getting vaccinated. I request everyone including health workers to come forward and get themselves vaccinated.”
Dr Wander said that he carried on with his routine after getting vaccinated. “I checked patients in the OPD and took ward round as usual. Some of our staff such as nurses etc had some doubts related to the vaccine and to remove those, I decided to volunteer. In over 30 years of my medical career, we had never imagined of such unprecedented times that Covid showed us but it has been a great lesson. Now, entire medical fraternity across the world would realise that infectious diseases are still very powerful and we need specialists for them. People should stay away from WhatsApp and social media rumors and get themselves vaccinated because such vaccines reach public only after several successful trials.”