Unscientific Vaccine Hesitancy in Health Care Workers 

 A health worker being administered Covishield vaccine at SKIMS) Srinagar | KO File Photo, Abid Bhat

ON April 20 2021, three months after the vaccination drive against Covid-19 started in Jammu and Kashmir, there was a report published in The Hindu revealing that only 54.41% of healthcare workers, that include doctors, had been vaccinated in the Union Territory. While Jammu has inoculated 63.63% of doctors and paramedical staff, Srinagar had been able to vaccinate 49.56% of healthcare workers. District Bandipora had inoculated 42.88% of healthcare staff while district Ganderbal had vaccinated 42.65% of their staff. It is pertinent to mention that the vaccination was first opened for frontline workers only which included healthcare workers. Also, by the virtue of their work, the healthcare staff works at the places where vaccination drives were held. Therefore, the inaccessibility or difficulty in getting the vaccination can be easily ruled out.

The low percentage of vaccination of healthcare workers seems to be coming from the rumours going on that vaccination is not safe. While publicly, all healthcare workers, including doctors, have been motivating people to get vaccinated, and in many cases, they have used their own example of vaccination to inspire confidence. However, the existing official data says more than half of them in Kashmir have been lying. There were many reasons as to why the government had first restricted vaccination to the healthcare workers. One of them was the fact that they have to deal with Covid positive patients. The vaccination would make them immune to getting infected by the virus and they could deal with the patients without putting their lives at risk. Another reason, as the common people, saw in it was that it inspired confidence in the vaccination in an era of the plethora of information and disinformation that is present on the internet. Since doctors themselves study about and deal with viruses and vaccination, if they would take the jab without hesitation, the general populace had no reason to doubt the vaccination process.

As the government opens vaccination to all adults from 28 April 2021, it should have first got its healthcare staff fully vaccinated so that it could inspire confidence among the masses. If half of the people who are armed with all the proper information about Coronavirus and the vaccination process are not getting vaccinated, the general population would get the impression that there is something really wrong with it. It is either that the government has not been able to convince the healthcare workers in Jammu and Kashmir about the safety of the vaccination or the healthcare workers do not believe in the science of vaccination anymore. If despite the existing information about the vaccination, the doctors and other healthcare workers cannot make up their mind to get vaccinated, they have failed science.

Haris Rashid 

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