Thiruvananthapuram: With COVID-19 cases witnessing an increase in Kerala and the Test Positivity Rate rising soon after the assembly elections in the state, the efforts by the state’s army of healthcare workers to encourage vaccination among those above 45 years of age are also being further ramped up.
The state has seen an enviable rate of vaccination among healthcare and frontline workers with 100 per cent of them already covered by the first dose and over 70 per cent their second dose. The national average for the first dose is 81 per cent and the second dose is 51.59 per cent.
Jaseentha and Sindhu are in their 40s, and as Accredited Social Health Workers (ASHA) had the target of meeting beneficiaries in around 30 households on Friday. In their ward, there are around 250 people between the age of 45 and 60, who have been scheduled for COVID-19 vaccinations on Saturday. They have already finished engaging with 90 per cent of these beneficiaries in person, over the last week. But the job is not easy, and the house-to-house walk in the scorching heat is just one reason.
Kerala has vaccinated around 10 per cent of its population with at least the first dose – the highest in southern India.
A resident of Vembanoor Ward, 55-year-old Usha, is quick to respond to the information being shared by the ASHA workers. “Yes, I will come tomorrow,” she says.
“Tokens will be issued at the vaccination centre from 9 am tomorrow. Don’t worry about anything. You have a family member under palliative care at home. It’s important that you get vaccinated, so you don’t spread it to her,” Jaseentha explains.
Usha takes down Jaseentha’s number. But just a few feet away, across the road, Jayshree is hard to convince.
“My mother-in-law doesn’t go out and doesn’t want to take the vaccine. I am also worried about side effects. I don’t respond to medicines well. I may not come tomorrow. I have to discuss this with my husband,” Jayshree says.
“Don’t worry. There are all doctors, nurses, every support system available at the vaccination centre. We all, our parents have taken the vaccine. Don’t worry,” says Sindhu, also an elected panchayat member.
“This is a very difficult task, but we do it as a service. Walking to each home under this blazing sun is very hard. On Day 1, around 60 per cent of people above 60 in my ward had got vaccinated. And then we convinced more of them and a total of 75 per cent of those above 60 years in my ward have got vaccinated. Tomorrow is the first day of vaccination for those between 45 and 60 in my area. I am expecting at least 60 per cent of them on the first day itself. The remaining, we will visit again,” she tells NDTV.
In the heart of Thiruvananthapuram city, a basketball court has been converted into a vaccination centre. The daily vaccination numbers here have dropped. “We used to get up to 3,500 daily beneficiaries in the beginning especially with those on election duty, now we get around 600 daily,” a doctor says.
Kerala has massively multiplied its vaccination centres – from 280 in the beginning to around 1,700, to ensure greater accessibility.
And as COVID-19 cases begin to rise again, the state is focusing on getting as many vaccinated as possible, as soon as possible.
“Even though we have a target of vaccinating 100 people per Primary Health Centre, many of them even vaccinate 200 -300 beneficiaries per day. The public is supportive and we are confident of reaching to most. Scaling up these facilities any further would not be any major challenge for us. If Government of India opens the vaccination facility for all, Kerala is ready to cater to all,” Thiruvananthapuram District Medical Officer Dr KS Shinu tells NDTV.