The state government has asked all district magistrates to hand over names of those who are refusing to take the second dose of Covid-19 vaccine to local police stations so that cops could visit their homes to convince them to take the jab.
The state government decided to take the help of cops after the health department found that over 18 lakh people across the state have not turned up to take the second jab even though they are due for it.
“The move was taken after repeated appeals to a section of people, who are due for a second dose of the vaccine, failed to evoke any response. Police cannot coerce them into taking the jab but the sight of cops at the doorstep might push people to take their jabs,” said a senior state government official. “We have been forced to take such a decision as people who are avoiding taking the jab might not only harm themselves but also others,” he added.
Sources said, in a recent meeting through video-conference, chief secretary H.K. Dwivedi had directed district magistrates to take measures for those who were repeatedly refusing to take their second dose of the jab.
Sources said in Bengal the number of people who are due for a second dose of Covaxin is 4.86 lakh and the number is 13.75 lakh for Covishield. As per the report, till Wednesday evening, the state had vaccinated around 6.39 crore people with the first dose and 3.20 crore with the second dose. In the case of Covaxin, people who did not take the second dose after 42 days of the first dose are considered overdue. In case of Covishield, the bar is 112 days from the date of first dose of the vaccine. Officials said it had become a challenge for them to convince those refusing their second doses.
“We have directed the block development officers to send a list of those people whose second dose is due for a long period and cops would visit them with health staff to ask them to take the jab,” said Bankura district magistrate K Radhika Aiyar.
The Bankura administration has also started sending health teams to vaccinate people at places where people are working under government schemes.
Other districts like Purulia, Birbhum and East Burdwan have also followed Bankura and asked cops to visit the doorsteps of those whose jab is overdue.
“We have also started informing cops about people whose second dose is overdue,” said Rahul Majumdar, the Purulia district magistrate.
Health officials said the rush to get vaccinated was higher when the rate of infection was too high. However, as soon as the infection rate dropped, the urge to get vaccinated has declined.
“We have also taken initiatives like visiting homes to vaccinate people. But interestingly a group of people are not taking the jab,” said a senior state health official in Calcutta. “We have taken the initiative to involve cops as the central government is putting pressure on us to step up the vaccination process, particularly for people whose second dose is overdue,” the official added.