Whatsapp texts, catchy slogans, drum beat announcements, reminders via temples and mosques, separate counters — the states have started upping their ante to ensure people get their second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
With the number of infections going down, the state governments are concerned that complacency will set in among citizens when it comes to getting vaccinated. As states have slowly opened up shops and institutions, people have resumed economic activities which could also lead people missing their second dose.
Dozens of state officials in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Meghalaya, Jammu and Kashmir, Chandigarh, Odisha, Bihar, Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand told News18.com that frequent reminders are being sent to the beneficiaries either via dedicated call centres or through CoWin. Teams of ASHA workers and Anganwadi workers have also been deployed to encourage beneficiaries to get the second dose as per their due date.
Sanjay Singh, executive director of the State Health Society in Bihar told News18.com, “We have been seeing that people have become complacent, to a certain extent. We have noticed their reluctance to stand in long queues for taking a second shot."
To tackle this reluctance, Bihar — which is already juggling with low coverage of the first dose — has decided to open separate counters on some sites only for beneficiaries arriving to take the second dose. Soon, the state will send automated recorded messages to people whose last shot is pending.
Not only Bihar, but Meghalaya is also looking for ways to push the vaccination coverage. The state continues to face vaccine hesitancy among a section of people, even for the second dose because of side effects. They have activated their Anganwadi workforce to reach out to the beneficiaries, who are due for their second dose, and convince them.
“People who have faced minor AEFIs (side-effects) are not coming forward for the second dose. In fact, their families, neighbours are also taking time to come forward. The people who developed Covid-19 infections after getting their first jab are also adding to the hesitancy," said an official closely related to vaccination drives in Meghalaya. According to the state’s data, first dose coverage in the state stands at 50.8 per cent, whereas second dose coverage is around 20 per cent.
An official overseeing the vaccination drive in Ladakh — the first union territory to cover 100 per cent of its population for the first dose — believes that a stronger awareness drive is required to create awareness about the second dose. “There is no hesitancy, but unlike metros, people here are not tracking the due dates. The larger population is not aware when they have to start booking for the next dose. While we have been sending text messages as reminders, they are not responding,” he said.
“Local-level administration departments have identified a list of people who are due to take a second shot. We are also working with Gram Panchayats to send reminders. Also, we are sending reminders via social media platforms,” said Raghuraj Singh, officer-in-charge for Covid-19 vaccination in Rajasthan. The state has a 76 per cent coverage for the first dose and 27 per cent for the second dose.
Catchy slogans, drumbeat announcements, home to home reminders
Bihar has been running aggressive campaigns to encourage people to return for a second jab. It has recently launched a campaign titled “Ek Adhoora, Doosra Poora” which translates into “with one it’s incomplete, with two it’s complete.”
The campaign throws colourful pictures, for instance, of a cycle but with a missing wheel, scissors but with just one edge, weighing scales (tarazu) with one plate. “The idea is to educate people that vaccination is incomplete without both doses,” Singh said.
Hilly states, including Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, are using religious places to create awareness about the vaccination drive and the need for getting fully vaccinated. “The cases are going down and people are now busy in their day to day life. We must not let complacency set in. We have been using mosques, temples and other religious places to remind people to get both doses,” said Dr Kuldeep Singh Martolia, officer-in-charge at the National Health Mission in Uttarakhand.
The state has achieved 94 per cent of coverage for the first dose, whereas the second dose coverage stands at around 37 per cent.
Another official from Himachal Pradesh said that apart from using religious places, in certain areas the state has been using drumbeat announcements as a way of attracting attention before making an important announcement. Home to home reminders by ASHA workers are also being sent.
Aggressive Reminders Especially For Covishield
The majority of states across the country are concerned due to the long interval between the two doses of Covishied — which is as long as 12-16 weeks. “The interval between two doses of Covishield is 12 to 16 weeks which is quite long for beneficiaries to remember as they get involved in routine day to day activities.” said Dr Bijay Panigrahy, Director of Family Welfare in Odisha.
“Since, due beneficiaries are not coming in time SMS is being sent from Co-WIN regarding date of second dose.”
Also, the state has instructed all districts to track and mobilize due beneficiaries through ASHAs. “The due list is being downloaded from Co-WIN by districts and used to mobilize beneficiaries via frontline workers.”
Uttarakhand’s Dr Martolia also added that the state has given a list of due beneficiaries to ASHA workers. “Also, block and district officers have set up call centres for sending frequent reminders.”
The official working at National Health Mission in Haryana also had similar concerns. “People are confused about the interval and they keep postponing endlessly. Specifically, in urban areas, several beneficiaries cite random studies that found the dosage gap extending till one year. In rural areas, people just forget or become reluctant to get a second dose,” the official said while adding that the first dose coverage in Haryana stands at around 79 per cent. The second dose coverage is around 28 per cent".
An official working closely with Chandigarh and Punjab’s Covid-19 vaccination drive said that for the second dose of Covishield people try to book as per their convenience. “They don’t feel the need to rush.”
He further said that the states are facing a unique challenge.
“A section of people who label themselves as ‘pro-farmer groups’ create complications either by rejecting vaccines or by not coming back to take the second dose,” he said while adding that “their idea is to derail the government’s vaccination drive so that it doesn’t succeed."