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Jharkhand to use Chhath to vaccinate migrant populations

Door-to-door campaign, vaccine vans and call centres to boost vaccination numbers 

Ranchi, Nov 5: Jharkhand, one of the states with the lowest Covid vaccination coverage so far, is betting big on the upcoming Chhath Puja to boost numbers.

The data with the state shows, it has vaccinated 1.5 crore people with the first dose out of the total beneficiary population of 2.4 crore whereas 33 lakh people are still due to take the pending second dose.

Now, with the objective of achieving 100% coverage for the first dose by the end of Chhath Puja week (November 10), the state has initiated micro-level actions including door-to-door vaccinations, vaccine vans and deployment of call centres for due date reminders and counselling.

In fact, state health minister Banna Gupta feels that while Jharkhand is fully prepared to take on the challenge and can inoculate 5 lakh people every day, the central government discriminates against it and it’s also running short on vaccine stock.

“Jharkhand government is determined for the prevention of corona. We have done good work with limited resources. The state government is also fully prepared for the vaccination programme. Our capacity is 5 lakh per day. But the central government discriminates against us and we are short of vaccines. However, we are determined to give 100% vaccines to the people of the state,” Gupta said.

The state has started accelerating the drive by preparing district-level plans.

“In view of sub-optimal coverage of Covid19 vaccination and a very high number of due and overdue beneficiaries awaiting the second dose, there is an urgent need for districts to undertake strict Covid-19 vaccination management measures by analysing and targeting the poor performing blocks to achieve the coverage of all beneficiaries,” said Arun Kumar Singh, additional chief secretary, state health and family welfare.

Singh, in a letter dated October 25, has instructed mission directors, district nodal officers, civil surgeons and state immunisation officers for “focused and targeted action” to maximise the vaccination coverage.

Singh has instructed officials to start micro-level planning and prepare a list of eligible beneficiaries election booth-wise.

“Preparation of micro-plan to cover all eligible beneficiaries, both for 1st dose and ‘due’ & ‘overdue’ beneficiaries awaiting 2nd dose,” said the letter.

According to Jharkhand government officials, the state has been struggling with the issue of migrant workers — people who work in other states and keep traveling back to their families.

“We have vaccinated more than 60% of the population. In real-time, the vaccines administered by us will exceed 70 to 75%. However, those people were possibly migrant workers who moved out of the state as soon as economic activity resumed,” Singh said.

This matter was raised in internal meetings as well as with some states that people who are not even part of their population were also vaccinated.

“Now we are planning to jump on the opportunity of the upcoming Chhath Puja, an occasion when everyone will come back home. It will give the state government an excellent opportunity to start a door-to-door vaccination campaign,” the officer said.

The second dose, the officer said, is a challenge. “Once the first dose is done, people tend to forget the 84-day interval for booking a second dose. We need to remind them,” he said while adding that 33 lakh people in the state are due for a second dose.

According to the new plan, officials will visit every home to check if the first and second doses have been taken by everyone and, if not, they will be vaccinated on the spot.

Considering the geography of Jharkhand that has forested lands, the state has also kick-started 60 mobile vaccination vans called “teeka express” with the aim of sending them to remote areas and villages.

 “All deputy commissioners have been asked via videoconferencing to take a printout of details of people who are due to get the first and second dose. They have been advised to open a call centre and start contacting all those who are yet to take their pending shots,” said Singh. “Apart from sending reminders via calls, if people are not willing to come, the work of counselling will also be done.”

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