Tamil Nadu

Persons with mental illnesses get priority vaccine coverage

Tamil Nadu, Chennai, 06/06/2021 : A health worker administers a dose of the Covishield vaccine, vaccination drive to inoculate senior citizen and people 45 year with co-morbidities at the mass vaccination camp, Kothavalchavadi in Chennai organised by SVJ magazine and Greater Chennai Corporation on Sunday. Photo : Jothi Ramalingam .B / The Hindu  

By prioritising persons with mental illnesses, Tamil Nadu has ensured that a vast majority of them under institutional care in Chennai and other parts of the State have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Tamil Nadu was in a better position when compared to other States when it came to prioritising persons with mental illnesses for vaccination. Doctors and representatives of NGOs pointed out that the process began much earlier, particularly in Chennai, and a significant number of persons with mental illnesses had received two doses of the vaccines.

At the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), Ayanavaram, 753 residents have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccines, while 513 have got the second dose as well. “It was a hassle-free process, with the Greater Chennai Corporation and the Differently Abled Welfare Office ensuring that our residents got access to vaccination,” P. Poorna Chandrika, director of IMH, said. “There is a greater need to get persons with mental illnesses vaccinated in view of a number of factors like higher prevalence of co-morbidities, greater exposure risk and difficulty in complying with norms like hand washing, physical distancing and wearing masks. We explained to the residents the importance of vaccination, and proceeded with it based on their willingness,” she said. She said there were no complications post-vaccination, except fever for a day in some cases.

K.V. Kishore Kumar, director of The Banyan, said vaccinating persons with mental illnesses was important as COVID-19-compliant behaviour was extremely difficult to implement among this population. “While we vaccinated all persons who had identity cards, there were some who did not know their names, and no ID was available with them. With the Government of India’s directive that everyone, including the homeless, with no ID cards should be vaccinated, we managed to achieve 100% vaccination, except for those who had tested positive for COVID-19,” he said.

Vaccination of persons with mental illnesses was taken up as a priority, said Alby John Varghese, Deputy Commissioner (Health), Greater Chennai Corporation. “We started to vaccinate them during early April. We run five shelters that are maintained by two NGOs — The Banyan and Anbagam. Many of the residents of these shelters have already received two doses of the vaccines,” he added.

Archana Padmakar, deputy director, Emergency Care and Recovery Centre, The Banyan, said a total of 292 clients and 186 staff had been vaccinated. While clients who were mobile were taken to the nearest Primary Health Centre for vaccination, a camp was organised by the PHC for the bedridden.“Persons with mental illnesses are more immune-compromised as many have been homeless, and have metabolic syndrome profiles. In the last wave, we lost four of our clients to COVID-19 complications, and hence, it was important to get them vaccinated. Those who had tested positive easily developed post-COVID complications, like electrolyte disturbances, high blood pressure and rapid deterioration. In the second wave, persons with a history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or known case of asthma came through due to vaccination, and it did not lead to hospitalisation,” she said.

How did the process of vaccination take off?

“There are many myths surrounding vaccination. We started to hold awareness sessions for clients. It took some time before many gave their consent. One of the factors that motivated them was seeing our staff getting vaccinated. All of them were mandatorily screened prior to vaccination,” she explained.

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Printable version | Jul 31, 2021 7:27:37 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/persons-with-mental-illnesses-get-priority-vaccine-coverage/article34756858.ece

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