1 lakh and counting: Panchkula inoculating on war footing

Owing to huge drives and shortage of vaccines across the country, Panchkula on Thursday ran out of vaccine stock, where people had to be sent away from dispensary sector 20 and civil hospital.

WITH MORE than 1 lakh of its population above the age of 45 years having been vaccinated, Panchkula stands neck to neck with Chandigarh and Mohali, both of which have double its population.

Initiating a huge drive as it sets up more than 30 vaccination centres, Panchkula district is vaccinating an average of 2,000 people (excluding HCWs and FLWs) per day since in March, and has ensured that more and more people come to take the jab.

Panchkula, with a population of 5.6 lakh (census of 2011) as of April 23, has given out approximately one lakh doses to residents of the district. Mohali and Chandigarh on the other hand, having an average population of 10 lakh each, have administered 91,000 and 1.04 lakh doses of vaccine respectively.

Dr Meenu Sasan, district immunization officer of Panchkula, said that while when the program for citizens had been launched, the district only conducted vaccinations at PHC levels but after an assessment session in an attempt to increase the numbers, a decision to hold vaccinations at anganwadi level was taken.

“We did not want our efforts to be superficial. We wanted to take vaccination to people instead of asking them to come to us. We wanted to do something on the lines of polio vaccination which has proven to be one of the biggest and most successful vaccination drives in the world. We thought of doing what we did with the sampling centres, we identified spaces including schools, anganwadi centres, their sub-centres in rural areas and community centres, dispensaries in urban,” she says.

Other open spaces have also been utilised by the district including small level ‘baraat ghars’ to reach people who would have been otherwise weary of coming to hospitals.

Currently, more than 30 teams set out each day, including two mobile buses which set up camp at areas where people are difficult to motivate. “As of now, we have taken these buses to industrial areas where labourers work in high numbers, to slums whose people are either reluctant or unaware and to localities of sectors with a greater number of senior citizen population,” says Dr Meenu.

Each team comprises of five persons including a doctor, a local ASHA or Anganwadi worker, a site manager, a mobilizer and an observer who looks after persons after they have been jabbed. Target populations difficult to motivate have too been roped in for vaccination through their information communication programs and continued persistence, says District Immunization Officer Dr Meenu, including the inoculation drives conducted at Nanakpur village and Saketri slum.

“Our mobile units have an ambulance type set-up. We especially use these in areas where people have shown reluctance in getting the jab. One of our biggest breakthroughs was achieved at the Saketri slum area where thousands live together in close proximity. The people were not willing to get vaccinated. We went there on day one and came back without a single jab. But we persisted. On day two, few took the vaccine willingly. After they noticed no side-effects, many came forward to take the vaccine he third day. Now they call us themselves, asking us to set up camp,” says Dr Meenu.

The district has been conducting vaccinations in two phases. While the first phase concentrates on vaccinating people staying at homes during the day time, several teams work till late evening, ensuring the ‘dehaadi workers’ too get vaccinated upon their return from work.

“Our staff has been working day and night to ensure maximum participation. We are mobilizing teams in evening to vaccinate the dehaadi workers. They are among the least interested people, whose priority is to fulfil basic necessities. They will not be among those willingly approaching us at district hospital but are a crucial part if we want to stop the spread of disease,” says Dr Meenu.

The district has administered a total of 1,26,048 doses of vaccines. The district also observes each Monday and Tuesday of a week holding mega-vaccination drives across city. The number of camps on these days increase furthermore, vaccinating almost 4000 persons each day during this drive.

Owing to huge drives and shortage of vaccines across the country, Panchkula on Thursday ran out of vaccine stock, where people had to be sent away from dispensary sector 20 and civil hospital. Dr Meenu however said that Covaxin is in stock but is only being used for second doses. Meanwhile stock of covishield in on way from Kurukshetra. “The process will be smooth Friday onwards,” added Dr Meenu.

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