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‘Health workers should act as role models, take jab’

New Delhi: Can the government take action on healthcare workers who refuse to take the Covid-19 vaccine shot?

Dr Suresh Kumar, medical director of Lok Nayak Hospital, who is also a member of the Covid-19 task force in the national capital, says vaccination is voluntary and no action will be taken on anyone who wants to wait for it. However, he added that most healthcare workers at his hospital were keen on it.
In the US, where vaccination started nearly a month ago, “vaccine hesitancy” among healthcare workers has emerged as a major concern. Similar problems have been seen in Europe. In Germany, a poll released in mid-December revealed that 50% of the nurses and 25% doctors did not want to get vaccinated.

Vaccine hesitancy was there among healthcare workers in India too, said Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, senior consultant, internal medicine at Apollo Indraprastha Hospital. “I get multiple queries from my colleagues, both nurses and doctors, seeking to know about the potential side-effects of the vaccine. I tell them that it is safe and adverse events, if any, are rare,” he added.

Healthcare workers, hospitals say, are so anxious they are reading everything available on adverse events associated with vaccination, from impotency to long-term neurological damage, and asking the authorities about them.

A few sceptics that TOI spoke to said they wanted to wait a little before getting the jab. “I don’t know which vaccine they will give us. Also, I have already suffered from Covid-19 in the past. Isn’t it more prudent to wait a little before getting the vaccine?” asked a 31-year-old healthcare worker at a private hospital. While her name has already been sent to the state health authorities, she said she would in all likelihood “miss” the roll call.

“They cannot force me to take the vaccine. What if I am ill? Also, I have heard that if a person misses the first appointment, he or she will get another opportunity. If he or she fails to turn up again, the details will be sent to the district authorities for vaccination with the general population,” said a nursing officer at AIIMS.

Dr SK Sarin, director of Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences, said scepticism about vaccination among healthcare workers poses a serious problem. “Nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers should act as role models for the society. They should come forward to take the shot because it is the only way to end this pandemic,” he added.

Dr Sushant Chhabra, head of emergency medicine at Manipal Hospital, said minor side-effects, like bodyache, mild fever, pain at the injection site, are just the immune responses of the body. “Rapid development of the vaccine doesn’t mean that it is less safe. All Covid-19 vaccines have gone through rigorous trials, which includes testing on thousands of volunteers,” he added.

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