Ignorance, skepticism keep people from taking vaccine booster dose

COVID-19 Health Karnataka Pandemic

Say people got Covid even after taking two doses

Many residents of Karnataka are not keen on taking the booster dose of the Covid vaccine. High price of the dose, decreasing fear of Covid, ignorance and skepticism are the probable reasons, experts say.

Raunak Sharma, 21, who hasn’t taken the booster dose, informed The Observer: “People are getting careless now. Covid-19 has become a part of our lives. We’re learning to live with it. Also, it’s too much work going to a vaccine centre and taking the vaccine.” Covid cases in India are growing again and a careless attitude can prove dangerous.

According to an April 10 Times of India report, the price of a Covishield dose at Apollo hospital, Jayanagar, is Rs 780 while that of a Covaxin dose at NU hospital, Bengaluru, is Rs 1,410.

Shivani Kaul, 22, who is sceptical about taking the booster dose, said: “Despite getting two vaccine shots, people still contracted Covid-19 in January. Moreover, now that the booster shot is to be purchased, people have become skeptical whether it is worth their money.”

Raghav Chandra, 21, who has taken his precautionary dose, believes people no longer fear the virus. Earlier, people were restless as cases were rising, but now with cases dipping, people no longer care.

Many believe the vaccine is ineffective. Nauman Patel, a doctor at Apollo, shared that people aren’t as impatient about the booster dose as they were about the first two doses.  “ I think people have made up their mind about the vaccine. They deem it ineffective. However, we can help them understand the importance and working cycle of the dose.”

Basil Issac, a doctor at the Government of Karnataka Central War Room, said more than the pricing, it’s a lack of awareness and lack of fear among people that prevent people from taking the booster dose. Dr Sumedh Kudale, an Urban Routine Immunization Consultant at UNICEF India, said the severity of the disease decreased in the third wave. “Despite the news that Omicron had a spreading capacity more than the first two variants, it still wasn’t life-threatening for many.”

He further suggested that the Public Health Department can generate greater awareness about it in the community.“ The solution for this is continuous follow-up among the community….”

Health experts talk of the need to take the booster dose and the need to address the gap in inoculation.

Pankaj K. Paul, External Monitor-Immunization, WHO, explained how taking a booster dose will further increase the number of antibodies, thus providing longer immunity from the virus.  There are various reasons for people not taking the booster dose. 

“Firstly, comparatively less initiative (outreach services, IEC display, social media, mass media) has been taken by the administration. Secondly, people lack awareness and knowledge regarding the need for the Covid-19 booster dose. Thirdly, side-effects among the population due to initial Covid-19 doses have created resistance and stigma towards the booster dose,” Paul said.

Jasween Kaur Bhatia, a public health professional at Tricog Health, Bengaluru, agrees that the booster dose should be made mandatory by the government. “The first two doses were a mandatory thing. People were scared they would be restricted to schools, colleges and on trips. So people got the doses.”She  added that the booster dose should be made free.

According to a Times of India report, the Karnataka government is expected to take a call on administering the third dose free of charge after PM Narendra Modi’s video conference with the CMs to review the situation. Pressure is mounting on the state government to give the vaccine for free.

Delhi, Bihar and Haryana have announced a free third dose, following which various sections of society, including industry captains, are putting pressure on the Karnataka government to follow suit.

chhavi.v@iijnm.org 

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