Delhi

Front-line workers claim under pressure to get jab

People registering for the COVID-19 vaccination drive in Delhi. file photo: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA  

Despite the vaccination drive for front-line workers starting almost a month after healthcare workers, more front-line workers have been immunised, according to official data. While vaccination of healthcare workers started on January 16, front-line workers, which includes police, paramilitary and government officials, started getting vaccinated from February 13.

Over 2,30,073 of 3,38,251 (68%) front-line workers had taken the vaccine till Thursday and only 1,49,910 of 2,38,256 (62.9%) healthcare workers had been vaccinated.

Strong ‘encouragement’

Officials said that many healthcare workers were infected by the virus and that is one of the reasons for the lesser turnout.

Enthusiasm is more because of “better awareness and communication” among front-line workers, said Delhi government officials. But there have been cases of them being under some level of “pressure” to take the vaccine, as per officials.

The number of people above 60 years of age and in the 45-59 age group taking the vaccine has also been steadily rising since it started on March 1.

On February 26, a Delhi Police head constable made a PCR call from Shakarpur in east Delhi after he was informed by his seniors that his salary will be cut if he refused to get vaccinated.

The Delhi police received many such calls and later in the day, officials said there was a “communication gap” and the message about the increment cut was spread to encourage officers to get vaccinated.

A senior officer said there were misconceptions regarding the vaccination among a few policemen, however, all SHOs have been instructed to ensure that all personnel get vaccinated. “If in a case, any police personnel had doubts, then he is to be counselled by doctors and experts, but ensure 100% attendance,” the officer said.

The officer added that policemen with significant medical conditions have been advised to consult their doctor before taking the shot.

Officials monitoring situation

An official working with the Delhi Jal Board said there is “monitoring” by senior officials on who all are getting the vaccine and this “creates a kind of pressure... but vaccination is not mandatory”.

Last month, an audio message of a Delhi government official asking employees to get vaccinated or else face action was leaked on social media. Officials later clarified that no such action was ever taken and the message was done just to encourage the employees.

“There were about four-five cases where front-line workers, who came to get vaccinated at the hospital, said that they did not want to take the vaccine. They requested us to just give them a certificate, as higher-ups were asking them to get vaccinated,” said a doctor working at the Delhi government-run Lok Nayak Hospital.

“On Tuesday evening, when we were about to call it a day, a police officer came to get vaccinated. He said that he was not inclined to get vaccinated, but “ACP saheb” has asked him to get vaccinated. Healthcare workers do not have that level of pressure,” the doctor said.

Chinmoy Biswal, Delhi Police PRO, said that around 85% of Delhi Police personnel have got the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. The remaining personnel will also get vaccinated soon.

“I got a message from the government informing me about my date of vaccination and then I got a call asking me to get vaccinated on the date. I was also asked to submit the certificate of vaccination at the office. In a way, we have more pressure than healthcare workers to get vaccinated,” said a police officer who works at the Delhi Secretariat.

But many said that they took the vaccine willingly.

A constable posted in Central Delhi said, “Initially, I was against the vaccination after reading about it on social media. However, my colleagues who got vaccinated shared their experiences and advised me to get vaccinated at the earliest. I got the first shot last week and I am doing fine,” said the policeman.

The Delhi Police has a strength of around 90,000 personnel. At least 34 personnel died due to COVID-19.

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Printable version | Apr 15, 2021 2:00:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/front-line-workers-claim-under-pressure-to-get-jab/article34009325.ece

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