Chief Ministers Explain Low Vaccine Coverage in the Northeast

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Chief Ministers of northeastern states lagging in Covid-19 vaccination have cited difficult terrain, population migration and vaccine hesitancy for the disappointing figures even as the Centre gears up to launch door-to-door drive to achieve 100% first dose coverage across India by November-end.

In all, 49 districts across India have reported vaccination coverage below 50%. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to hold a review meeting on Wednesday with the concerned district magistrates on the low figures. These districts are spread across Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Maharashtra and Jharkhand among other states.

As many as 27 of these districts are in northeastern states. Arunachal Pradesh accounts for six of them, with the Kra Daadi district recording only 18.31% first dose coverage and Kurung Kumey recording 27.34%. Upper Subansari has vaccinated 32.03% beneficiaries with the first dose. The overall vaccination rate for the state is 77% and 53% for first and second doses, respectively.

Speaking to News18, Arunachal Pradesh CM Pema Khandu cited population migration as one of the reasons why the data shows low figures.

β€œLarge chunks of population from these districts have migrated to state capital Itanagar, adjoining areas in Papum Pare district and to other areas bordering Assam. The target figures are higher as per Census-projected population in comparison to the actual head count because of which the coverage seems lower as per the Census-projected targets monitored by the Government of India,” Khandu said.

He added that places in some districts are also hard to access. β€œBecause of difficult geographical terrain in few districts, the outreach sessions and the mobilisation of beneficiaries has been a challenge during the monsoon months of April to September,” he said.

Vaccination hesitancy, too, is a challenge in some districts, the Arunachal CM said. β€œDue to various myths and misconceptions regarding Covid-19 vaccines, beneficiaries in some districts are reluctant to take the dose.”

Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh echoed similar concerns when talking about the low coverage in his state. Eight districts in Manipur have reported less than 50% vaccination. While Kangkopki has reported 17.07% vaccination, Ukhrul has reported 19.55%. Kamjong and Senapati districts have vaccinated just over 28% beneficiaries with the first dose.

β€œWe have been pushing the vaccination drive and have launched mobile vans too. But in certain rural areas, people still are reluctant to take the vaccine. They feel the pandemic is over since no one is getting Covid-19 anymore. We will make a concerted effort to ensure that people take vaccines,” Biren Singh told News18.

β€œOurs is not a very easy state geographically and we have new challenges in sending across vaccines to far-flung areas, especially those that are not even accessible by road. But we are making our best efforts and we are sure that vaccination will pick up pace soon,” he added.

In Meghalaya, four districts have reported less than 50% coverage. West Khasi Hills district has administered the first dose to 39.03% beneficiaries, while the East and South Garo Hills have reported over 40% coverage.

In Nagaland, Kiphire district has reported just 16.06% coverage so far, while Tuensang showed vaccination rate of 20.76%. Phek district reported 21.74%, while Peren district has vaccinated 25.88% eligible population with the first dose. In all, nine districts in Nagaland show low vaccination figures.

Assam is the only north-eastern states to have achieved at least 95% vaccination so far.

The central government has appealed to all states to reinvigorate the vaccination drives with door-to-door campaigns. A direct helpline has been set up between the Union Health Ministry and the states, and health minister Mansukh Mandaviya has also created a WhatsApp group with state counterparts for easier and effective sharing of information on a daily basis.

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