Tamil Nadu government doctors' association expresses reluctance to accept COVID-19 vaccination, cites safety concerns

Published : January 11, 2021 21:57 IST

Union Minister Harsh Vardhan with Tamil Nadu Health Minister C. Vijayabaskar (third from left) and Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan (behind the Union Minister) at a COVID-19 vaccination dry run at Rajiv Gandhi Government Medical College Hospital in Chennai on January 8. Photo: JOTHI RAMALINGAM B.

As the country prepares for its first phase of COVID-19 vaccination for its three crore frontline and health care workers from January 16, the Tamil Nadu Government Doctors Association (TNGDA) has expressed its “reluctance” to accept the first shot owing to “safety concerns”.

A late evening circular issued by both the president and the secretary of the TNGDA in Chennai on January 11, which Frontline has accessed, states that the Government of India had announced “the starting of vaccination against SARS-Cov-2 virus and permitted two vaccines for public use”. It also planned to launch the vaccination with two the vaccines — Covishield and Covaxin. Subsequently the Tamil Nadu government had announced its plan to start the vaccination for health care personnel from January 16 across the State.

The TNGDA has pointed out that in such a situation “some of the doctors and other frontline workers have expressed concern on the safety of the vaccine[s] supplied and if they have choice”. Its circular further states that “some [of the] doctors express unwillingness to vaccinate for the fear of serious complications viz-a-viz the disease (infectivity and mortality)”.

It said that due to the queries raised and the doubts that were prevailing among sections of doctors, the TNGDA “have sought opinion from three independent top specialists on the safety, efficacy and choice of vaccines offered, in two days (by 13.01.2021)”. The TNGDA further stated that it would issue an advisory for its members and other stake holders in this collection after its emergency executive committee meeting to be held on January 14, 2021.

Tamil Nadu successfully completed dry runs at around 200 centres for the vaccination, involving around 2,000 health care personnel and 510 participants. The Health Secretary, J. Radhakrishnan, said that no stone was left unturned in the exercise. The dry run was held at three centres each in the districts of Chennai, Tiruvallur, Nilgiris, Tirunelveli and five in Coimbatore.

Teams of officials from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) also were present during the dry runs. Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, too, visited Chennai recently and reviewed the scientific inputs of the dry run for administering vaccines. "In a short period of time, India has developed vaccines, he said.

“Tamil Nadu is ready for hassle-free vaccination,” Radhakrishnan said. About 100 people could be vaccinated on a single day at a centre. A government source claimed that as many as six lakh health personnel had already registered for the vaccination besides other frontline workers.

Nurses' association to meet

Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu government Nurses' Association has convened its executive meeting through Zoom on January 14 to decide whether to accept the vaccines. The association said that since reports on the vaccines were not available in detail, it was reluctant to take the vaccine shots.