Vaccine acceptance low among well-informed people in Karnataka

Field level health workers are the ones queueing up to take the jab

Vaccine hesitancy in Karnataka is high among those who are more informed. State health officials said they have noticed that the percentage of field level health workers (such as ANMs, ASHAs, anganwadi workers and anganwadi helpers at village level) who have taken the vaccine is the highest in the State at 71%.In comparison, only 54% of medical officers (doctors) and 56% of paramedical staff have been vaccinated so far. Of the 29,478 registered field level workers, 20,838 have taken the jab. Among the 17,172 village level workers, the figure is 12,041, according to data from COWIN portal dashboard.

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A mere 8% of the eligible medical officers have taken the second dose. In contrast, 22% field level workers and 39% village level workers have been completely vaccinated (have taken the second dose).

“The more informed healthcare workers are, the less convinced they are about COVID-19 vaccines. We have noticed that hesitancy is high among specialists and super specialists whereas ASHA and anganwadi workers are not reluctant to take the shot. We are trying to address this issue,” said Arundathi Chandrashekar, State Mission Director, National Health Mission.

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S. Sachidananda, Vice Chancellor of Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences (RGUHS), who conducted an orientation programme for over 1,000 doctors and specialists from medical colleges on vaccine hesitancy, said it had been observed that non-medical staff were easily convinced in centres where the doctors were convinced.

“The overall vaccine coverage is hovering around 51%. If this happens during this phase of vaccination for healthcare workers, we are worried what will happen when the vaccine is rolled out for the general public,” he said.

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M.K. Sudarshan, chairman of the State’s COVID-19 Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), said doctors consider themselves to be well-informed and better equipped to protect themselves against COVID-19. “They have a lot of information about clinical trials, and they do not want to take less efficacious vaccines. Most of them want to wait for market authorised/full registration vaccines. As of now, COVID-19 vaccines in the country are authorised only for emergency use,” he said.V. Ravi, TAC member and former senior professor and head of neurovirology at NIMHANS, attributed this trend to misinformation campaigns on social media.

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“Vaccine hesitancy is mainly because our healthcare workers are relying on social media and not on evidence. There are only two ways to get immunity: either get infected and recover, or get vaccinated,” he said.

Even those who are infected should get vaccinated as the available data shows that the antibody levels fall by six months after infection. All vaccine trials have included infected people and no side-effects have been observed, he added.