Deployment of health workers in elections can affect Covid booster driveAs the risk of a new Covid surge grows amid rising cases in India, public health experts have called for ramping up booster jabs.
A government plan to launch a nationwide Covid booster vaccination drive before the local elections is likely to be affected, as many health workers will be deployed on election duty.
Officials at the Ministry of Health and Population said they are in discussion with the agencies concerned on the possibility of launching a booster drive at least for a week before the elections.
“Many health workers will be deployed for elections,” said Dr Roshan Pokhrel, secretary at the Health Ministry.
As the risk of a new Covid surge grows amid rising cases in India, public health experts have been urging the authorities concerned to focus on the administration of booster shots.
The Health Ministry too has been planning to launch a nationwide drive to administer booster shots which are expected to lessen seriousness and deaths from new possible Covid infections.
With the surge in Covid-19 cases in several states of India including in New Delhi of late, concerns have been growing in Nepal due to the proximity factor and cross-border movement of people between the two countries.
India on Tuesday reported 2,219 new cases and 20 deaths from Coronavirus infections.
Nepal shares a long open border with its southern neighbour. As the earlier iterations of the pandemic have shown, the crest and trough of the Covid pandemic in Nepal have been directly proportional to those in India.
Although the Health Ministry has decided to administer booster shots to those all who were administered their second doses three months ago, the uptake of booster shots has not increased.
So far, 3,374,858 people or around 11.7 percent of the total population have been administered booster shots as of Tuesday. So far, 67.1 percent of the total population has been fully immunised. The Health Ministry said that 84.1percent population above 12 years old has been fully vaccinated.
The Health Office, Kathmandu said that the District Administration Office and District Election Office have sought details of the health workers serving in the district.
“We have sent them details of our staffers including health workers,” said Basanta Adhikari, chief of the Health Office. “We are not told yet if the health care staffers will be deployed in the elections or not.”
Local units in the Valley had organised a booster drive on April 24 and 25. Adhikari said that many people from the district took booster shots during the two days.
“We have continued the vaccination programme from eight major hospitals in Kathmandu,” said Adhikari. “Those who have not taken booster shots can receive them from those hospitals.
According to the Health Office, Kathmandu, Covid-19, people can receive Covid vaccine at Bir Hospital, Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, Paropakar Maternity and Women’s Hospital, Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, Nepal Police Hospital, Armed Police Force Hospital, Army Hospital and Civil Hospital.
The Health Ministry said it has over 10 million Covid vaccine doses in stock for the booster drive. Officials said they have asked COVAX, the United Nations backed international vaccine-sharing scheme, not to supply additional doses, due to decline in the uptake and storage problems.
Of the 9.2 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine offered by COVAX, only around 1.5 million doses have been supplied and they have yet to be used.
Health officials, meanwhile, said local units are free to start booster drives in their jurisdictions at the earliest.
With the decline in Covid infection rate of late, vaccine uptake has declined and even educated people have not shown interest to take booster shots.
The Health Ministry had started administering booster shots from January 17, after the third wave of the pandemic gripped the country.
Public health experts urged agencies concerned to ramp up booster vaccination pace as vaccines are the only effective means to lessen the severity of Covid.
“People, who are eligible and had received their second doses three months ago, should take booster shots,” said Dr Janak Koirala, an infectious disease expert. “We should not underestimate the risks.”