Kerala: As Omicron fear grows, so does vaccination

Concerns over the Omicron variant seem to have jacked up the demand for vaccination in Kerala. Health Minister Veena George said the number of people turning up for vaccination has increased amid reports of the new Covid-19 variant.

Meanwhile, India reported its first two Omicron cases on Thursday. Both are in Kerala’s neighbouring state Karnataka.

The Kerala government has also launched a two-week special vaccination drive that began December 1. “The drive is meant to trace those who haven’t yet taken the first dose and get them vaccinated. Also, steps would be taken to complete the second dose for those who took the first jab,’’ said George.

She said those refusing to get vaccinated on flimsy grounds would be denied free treatment. The state has a stock of eight lakh doses and has requested more supplies for the special drive, she said.

Health Department data reflects the sudden interest in vaccination. It shows that only 4.4 lakh people had taken vaccine shots in the four-day period from November 23. The figure rose to 6.25 lakh in the next four days starting November 27. This was around the time reports of the Omicron variant started coming in.

While only 36,428 people had taken the first dose during November 23-26, this figure grew to 57,991 in the next four days. The number of fully vaccinated people has grown from 4.03 lakh to 5.67 lakh during these days.

Vaccination in Kerala had lost steam in recent weeks as active cases fell and lockdown norms were eased.

At least 50 per cent of the eligible population in Kerala had got the first dose by 1 August. Within a month (by 1 September), this figure has grown to 74 per cent of the population. But the pace of vaccination dipped in November — while 92 per cent of the eligible population had been covered by the first dose as on November 1, the coverage of the first dose grew to only 96 per cent as on December 1.

Recently, the state government directed all government employees and teachers to get vaccinated, failing which they would have to get an RT-PCR test done every week at their own cost. Those employees keeping away from vaccination on health grounds should produce relevant certificates from doctors in the government service, the government had said.

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