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Jammu, Srinagar get almost equal number of vaccine doses: Officials

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‘J&K to receive fresh consignment of vaccines in day or two’

Srinagar: Official sources on Monday said that there is no discrimination between Kashmir and Jammu regions in distribution and administration of Covid-19 vaccines and that the comparatively lesser number of people getting the jab in the Valley is only because of the initial vaccine hesitancy of the people here.

They said some social media users in Kashmir Valley have been alleging discrepancy in Covid-19 vaccination drives in the twin divisions of Kashmir and Jammu, which is not based on facts as both the divisions received almost equal number of Covishield and Covaxin doses, “but vaccine hesitancy in Kashmir, in the beginning, slowed down the process of vaccination here”.

Till the time of writing this report, Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir, as per the official data, has received 38,73,360 doses of Covishield and Covaxin since January 16 this year.

Of this, 19,02,220 were for Kashmir division and 19,71,140 for Jammu division as per the population of above 45 years age group, reveals the government data.

The officials said the Union territory, according to May 15 data, has achieved vaccination coverage of 61.03 percent against the national average of 32.17 percent.  Officials insist that it’s a “huge achievement” for J&K.

When confronted with the reports that more people in Jammu have got vaccinated in comparison to Kashmir, the officials said that in Kashmir it was peoples’ reluctance to get vaccinated that “is being now drummed as discrimination”.

“The summer capital Srinagar, which started vaccination drive at the same time as Jammu, has clocked only 35.52 percent coverage of the priority group, while the latter has achieved 98.48 percent vaccination,” said officials.

They said while district Kupwara in Kashmir division has achieved merely 27.57 percent coverage, even the worst performing district of Doda in Jammu division has managed to score 46.04 percent vaccine coverage.

“The low percentage is because just before the second wave hit the country, same social media warriors in the Valley were burning midnight oil to discredit the efficacy of vaccine and entire immunization programme,” officials said.

They further said that in Kashmir division the authorities had to rope in religious leaders and other influencers who tried to persuade the people to get vaccinated.

The officials said that due to vaccine hesitancy, from Jan 16 to March 31, only 428453 people in Kashmir division got the jab, however, after the efforts made by the authorities, from April 01 to May 15, some 94,8850 more people have been vaccinated.

“The efforts paid dividends and many districts like Ganderbal, Shopian crossed 90 percent coverage while other districts like Kulgam, Bandipora, Anantnag, Baramulla, Budgam did fairly well in the immunization drive,” said the officials.

Vaccine Hesitancy

The World Health Organization (WHO) in its 11page power point presentation on Covid-19 vaccination defines vaccine hesitancy as a “delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccination services” and it is “influenced by factors such as complacency, convenience and confidence.”

In Jammu & Kashmir, particularly in Kashmir division, vaccine hesitancy model added other factor – rumours –, the officials say.

“Complacency, convenience and confidence garnished by rumors not only delayed vaccination drive in Kashmir division in comparison to Jammu, but also put additional burden on authorities to mount a campaign roping in mass media, influencers, religious leaders to convince the people to get the jab to protect themselves and their family members,” officials say.

They said between January 16 to March 31, 2021, Srinagar district registered 13,152 vaccinations of citizens of 45 years and above age group. During the same period Jammu district’s figure was 90,515.

Between April 01 to May 15, 2021, Srinagar clocked 99,240 vaccinations while data from Jammu shows remarkable progress with 2,74,552 Covid doses given to citizens above 45 years, officials say, adding that this excludes the healthcare workers and frontline warriors.

“Even in March, when the people were persuading the citizens, the health officials were perplexed that stocks were lying unused in Kashmir division while citizens in Jammu were getting jabbed,” said the officials.

A top health department official said that in the first week of March, religious leaders were roped in to persuade the people in Kashmir division. Women doctors were advising the womenfolk not pay heed to the rumors that Covid vaccine causes infertility.

On March 10, the total availability of vaccine in Kashmir division was 10,19,000 while in  Jammu  total available doses were 7,92,000.

“Doctors were scared what to do with 10 lakh-plus doses when people were reluctant. The surge in vaccinations in Kashmir division came only after April 15 while Jammu’s performance was as steady.

“The April surge could be attributed to twin factors – appeal from top religious leaders and growing awareness among the masses about threat from mutant virus,” the official said.

“Some media outlets and social media users are misleading the public about doses shortage. They conveniently buried the data which was already in the public domain. There was no discrepancy in distribution of Covid vaccine doses,” he claimed.

“As far as shortage of vaccines is concerned, within a day or two, we will receive the consignment. Everyone should come forward to get a jab. Our topmost priority is to vaccinate entire population of the priority group within 10 days,” said the official.

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