SRINAGAR: High decibel immunization campaign notwithstanding, the vaccine hesitancy in the Kashmir valley remains very high compared to the Jammu division.
Experts say that the Kashmir region missed targets in the initial phase of vaccination because of rumors and overall hesitancy in the population.
New data from the Health Department has revealed that Srinagar has clocked only 35.52% vaccination coverage of the priority group against 98.48% in Jammu.
Kupwara district has achieved merely 27.57% vaccination coverage. Doda district in Jammu has archived 46.04 % target, which is the lowest in the Jammu division.
Ganderbal, Shopian crossed 90% coverage, while other districts like Kulgam, Bandipora, Anantnag, Baramulla, and Budgam did fairly well in the immunization drive.
World Health Organization defines vaccine hesitancy as a “delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of immunization services” and it is “influenced by factors such as complacency, convenience, and confidence”.
In Kashmir, complacency, convenience, and confidence by rumors not only delayed vaccination drive in Kashmir division in comparison to Jammu but also put an additional burden on authorities to mount a campaign roping in mass media, influencers, religious leaders, top Government sources believe.
From January 16 to March 31, 2021, Srinagar district registered 13,152 vaccinations of 45 and above. During the same period, Jammu district’s figure was 90,515.
From April 1 to May 15, 2021, Srinagar clocked 99,240 vaccinations, while Jammu administered 2,74,552 doses to citizens above 45. This excludes the health care workers and front-line warriors.
Even in March when the citizens like the world over should have been queuing up for jabs, health officials were perplexed that stocks were lying unused in Kashmir, while citizens in Jammu were getting vaccinated without hesitation.
“One of the biggest rumors was that women who get vaccinated would not be able to have children and young men who would get vaccinated would not be able to father a child. That rumor gained currency for almost two months. Even after vaccination, we received calls from anxious people who wanted to confirm whether their life has been destroyed by vaccine or not”’ a top doctor involved in vaccination said.
Despite the high hesitancy rate, J&K fared well in the overall vaccination drive. The Union territory, according to May 15 data, has achieved vaccination coverage of 61.03% against the national average of 32.17%. It’s a huge achievement for the J&K.
Official figures reveal that Jammu and Kashmir has received 38,73,360 doses of `Covishield’ and `Covaxin’ since January 16 this year. Of the total, Kashmir received 19, 02,220 doses, and Jammu got 19, 71,140.