The Kerala government has been urging the citizens to get the vaccination against COVID-19 amid an increase in the number of infections. While the State has started the third phase by vaccinating individuals between 18 and 44 with co-morbdities, many above 45 are thronging vaccination centres to get a slot for their second dose of vaccine without much success.
It was earlier informed that regulated spot registration would be available for those waiting to take the second dose. However, people have been forced to return home without getting the jab because of vaccine shortage.
“I waited at MD Seminary School in Kottayam after learning that vaccine was available there. But I was asked to return home as they had vaccines only for those who registered through CoWin app in the age group of 18-44,” said 52-year-old Sheeba.
Sheeba's was not an isolated case.
A 70-year-old man, who doesn't wish to be identified, too shared his travails.
“I got my first dose 50 days ago. I am waiting for my second. I came here (MD Seminary School in Kottayam, a vaccination centre) after an Asha worker told me about the vaccine availability. Now I was told that there is a delay in vaccination and that it is okay. But how can the interval between the doses change according to the availability?” he asked.
Lack of authentic information flow appears to have marred the inoculation drive, at least for the time being.
“Even Asha workers do not know where the vaccine is available," Sheeba said.
"They (Asha workers) asked me to follow the District collector's Facebook page but it had nothing related to second dose vaccination. I am supposed to take the second dose of Covaxin by the end of the month,” Sheeba said.
The health officials too appear to be unaware of the second dose availability. “We get information regarding the vaccine availability only a day before. We have been asked to vaccinate those in the age group of 18-44. I have no other information,” said a health department official at the vaccination centre at MD Seminary.
What Guidelines Say
The government's latest guidelines for COVID-19 inoculation stated that priority will be given to those who need the second dose.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also has asked health officials to identify people who need the second dose with the help of ASHA workers or local body staff and to administer the vaccine through spot allotment.
“The delay could be due to the shortage of vaccines. We get information regarding the next-day availability only in the evening,” said an Asha worker.
Though the interval between two doses of Serum Institute of India’s Covishield vaccine has been extended to 12-16 weeks, the second dose of Covaxin must be taken four to six weeks after the first.
Reason for the delay
A top health official told Onmanorama that there was a shortage in the availability of the vaccine from the Centre. “The vaccine that was distributed in MD Seminary school was purchased by the State for those belonging to the age group of 18-45 with co-morbidities. It should not be distributed to those who need a second dose. That is why some centres are not providing a second dose. The details regarding the vaccination centres and availability are being published in various newspapers in order to inform the public. We are also organising awareness training for local authorities as well on how to reach out to the public and inform them accordingly,” he said.
Some ways to find availability of the second dose of vaccine
1. Get in touch with an Asha worker or local authorities in your respective area
2. Follow District Collector's Facebook page for daily information regarding vaccine distribution
3. Watch out for vaccination centres in newspapers
4. Also try checking CoWin portal.
So far 85,35,868 doses of vaccine have been administered in Kerala out of which 65,19,795 people were given the first dose and 20,16,073 people were given the second dose as of May 19. Kerala is only left with 31,800 doses of vaccine for the age group above 45 provided by the Centre. The state has also purchased 4,79,790 dose – 1,16,520 Covaxin and 2,83,530 Covishield dose for those in the age group of 18-45 with co-morbidities. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan informed that the vaccine provided by the Centre is over and that it has been conveyed to the chief secretary.