Not even 50% of 45+ population in Maharashtra are fully vaccinated against Covid, Health News, ET HealthWorld

MUMBAI: One of the key factors that could make a dent in hospitalisations and deaths should a third wave occur would be the vaccination of vulnerable age groups. The Union health ministry and the World Health Organisation have often reiterated the importance of immunizing the 45-plus population as severity of Covid and deaths are higher in this age group. Yet, state numbers suggest coverage of the 45-plus population is far from desirable. Numbers reveal that not even 50% (46%) from the 45-plus age groups have taken both shots despite vaccination being open to them since April.

District-wise numbers give a grim picture. Not a single district in Maharashtra has reached even 80% double dose coverage for this highrisk age group. Sindhudurg is the only district that has covered 77.5% of this population with both shots. Even Mumbai is lagging and has managed to cover just 68% with both doses. In fact, as many as 13 districts are below the state average of 46%. Lowest are Hingoli and Aurangabad where barely 29% have got both the shots. Closer to Mumbai, Palghar has given two shots to 32% people above 45 years. In Hingoli, Nandurbar and Aurangabad, even the single dose coverage is less than 60%.

The state Covid taskforce had said in the past that Maharashtra must cover at least 70% people in the vulnerable age groups by October. “Vaccination, isolation, contact tracing are some of the key tools to stay ahead of the virus. We mustn’t make the same mistakes we did between the first and second waves,” said Dr Shashank Joshi, a member of the Covid taskforce, adding that immunization must be expedited.

Maharashtra has an adult population of 9.14crore eligible for immunisation. Of that, 3.51crore people are above 45 years age, while another 5.6crore people are in the 18-44 years bracket. In absolute numbers, nearly 2crore people above 45 years are waiting to be fully vaccinated.

A state official said districts have been repeatedly told to better their coverage of the 45-plus and senior citizens. “More than 80% of Covid deaths in the state have occurred in people above 45 years and with comorbidities. Hence, districts must understand the importance of vaccinating this age group on priority,” the official said.

Officials from Aurangabad, which is among the 48 districts pulled up for poor vaccine coverage by the Centre, said they will kickstart door-to-door drives shortly. Hit by lack of stocks initially, the district was ravaged by rains for several months. “Post Diwali, we will target all age groups,” said Dr Sudhakar Shelke, district health officer.

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