Srinagar: Fifty-nine-year-old Bashir Ahmad Khan was the first to arrive at Srinagar’s Sher -I- Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) to get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus. A healthcare worker at the institute, Khan had volunteered for the vaccine despite his family’s disapproval.
Khan finally received the vaccine after the government rolled out the first batch across the country, including in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, on Saturday. The authorities in the region have acquired around 1.5 lakh doses for over 1.10 lakh front-line workers for the first phase.
As many as 4,000 persons were expected to receive the vaccine on the first day of the immunisation program. By the end of the day, nearly 2,200 workers had been vaccinated, including senior doctors at SKIIMS. The tertiary hospital has a staff of over 4,000 members and there are 47 COVID-19 patients admitted there.
“There were apprehensions about the vaccine but a good number of people turned up for it,” state immunisation officer Dr. Haroon Qazi told NewsClick.
As many as 3,700 persons have been administered the Covishield vaccine shot as of Monday evening. Dr Qazi said that the turnout would only increase as the first few shots were also aimed to boost confidence not just amongst the fraternity, but also among the general population.
“We have not received any compliant or an adverse reaction from those who have been vaccinated so far, which is a good sign,” Dr Qazi said.
“We have put a system in place in case there is a reaction. It will be handled...,” adviser to the Lt. Governor of the UT of J&K, R.R. Bhatnagar, said.
However, fears still remain. Not sure about the vaccine, many healthcare workers are staying away. Dr. Nisar-ul-Hassan, president of the Doctor’s Association of Kashmir (DAK), said the “vaccine hesitancy among medical personnel is a major concern.”
“If vaccine hesitancy is not addressed, it could mean we could be seeing outbreaks for years,” Dr Nisar said in a statement ahead of the drive. The hesitancy in healthcare workers, Dr Nisar added, would have implications on vaccine coverage among the population.
Over 1.2 lakh COVID-19 cases have been reported in Jammu and Kashmir so far. There are over 1,200 active COVID-19 cases in the region of which 741 are active in the Kashmir Valley and 483 in the Jammu division, according to official records. The region has reported over 1,900 deaths so far, of which 1,200 have died in Kashmir since the first case was reported in March last year.
The authorities have designated 40 centres for vaccination in the UT, where 100 persons are expected to get vaccinated on a daily basis. In Kashmir, vaccination will be carried at 20 hospitals and sub-district hospitals across the valley.