As cases rise, poor uptake of precautionary dose turns worrisome

Tamil Nadu is reporting a rise in the number of positive cases, says Health Secretary P. Senthilkumar. File photo

Tamil Nadu is reporting a rise in the number of positive cases, says Health Secretary P. Senthilkumar. File photo | Photo Credit: VELANKANNI RAJ B

With COVID-19 cases rising steadily in Tamil Nadu, the slow uptake of the precautionary dose of the COVID-19 vaccine among the eligible population worries doctors and public health officials.

While precautionary doses are administered free of cost to healthcare workers, frontline workers and the elderly, it is available for the rest — aged 18-59 — through private vaccination centres.

Data obtained from the Directorate of Public Health and Preventive Medicine showed 1,35,524 healthcare workers, 2,33,751 frontline workers and 8,47,558 persons aged above 60 have so far received the precautionary dose. Private hospitals have administered 1,48,710 doses. However, there is no data on how many eligible persons aged 18-59 have received the dose as officials said there was limited access to the performance of private vaccination centres because the doses were purchased by them.

“The uptake is poor. The main cause for concern is the waning of immunity over a period of time. In particular, it rapidly declines in older age. Our study showed that hospital admissions and death is high in the 60-plus age group. So, the booster dose is essential,” said T. S. Selvavinayagam, Director of Public Health and Preventive Medicine.

E. Theranirajan, Dean, Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital, said that only 20-30 persons came in for the booster dose a day. “If we take 100 patients who had COVID-19, 85% of those who died were unvaccinated, 5% received a single dose and 8% took two doses but had co-morbidities,” he said.

Vijayalakshmi Balakrishnan, senior consultant, infectious diseases, Kauvery Hospital, said the number of persons coming in for the booster dose was very less. “For example, if 10 persons are eligible, probably only one comes in. Even after the recent rise in cases, the pick-up rate has not been very high,” she said.

She added, “Those who have completed more than nine months after the second dose are at a higher risk of developing complications from COVID-19, that is, the involvement of lungs. Without the booster dose, the immunity level is less.”

The bigger problem is that in the vulnerable group, who had taken the vaccine earlier, a considerable number have not taken the booster dose. “That is the most worrisome part,” she said. At least, 90% of the patients under admission now are those who are unvaccinated or have taken a single dose or vaccinated more than a year ago, she pointed out.

While a lot of youngsters are not keen on getting the dose, the elderly are reluctant to move out, Dr. Vijayalakshmi said.

Shreevidya Venkatraman, senior consultant, internal medicine and in charge of preventive health checks, MGM Healthcare, said the pace of the booster dose uptake was not as big as it should be. “I think the government should open up the administration of the booster dose for the below 60 years category.”

“We had a lot of people who tested positive for COVID-19 during the second half of last year. So, there should be a gap of nine months from the second dose of the vaccine, and three months after testing positive,” she said.

Dr. Shreevidya said the booster dose gave an assurance that even if one did test positive, he/she would not fall sick. “Quarantine duration reduces substantially from 14 to seven days in symptomatic or much less in asymptomatic persons who incidentally test positive. We can beat the intensity of the infection through the vaccine,” she said.

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Printable version | Aug 10, 2022 3:32:10 am |