Migrant workers sitting ducks if third Covid wave arrives in Kerala

After children who are unvaccinated, majority of workers from other states who have not been inoculated are more vulnerable: Statistics

Published: 27th August 2021 04:09 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th August 2021 11:23 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: As the state is preparing for the third wave of Covid, the migrant community is more vulnerable after children who are expected to be the worst hit because they are unvaccinated.

The vaccination among the guest workers is still going at a snail’s pace.  So far, hardly around 1,700 migrant workers have got both doses of vaccines in the state which has around 31 lakh migrants, according to the latest study reports.

The migrant community will also be the super spreaders if the third wave hits the state in the current milieu.

As per the statistics available with the labour department, 38,677 guest workers were given the first dose of vaccination, while the second dose was given to only 1,700 migrants in the state as on August 18.

Among the districts, Ernakulam, which accounts for the highest migrant workers, has given the first dose of vaccine to 18,802, while both doses of the vaccine were given to just 39 workers.

So is the case with other districts (see box). The labour department points out the shortage of vaccines as the prime reason for the low number of vaccination among the guest workers.

There is also allegedly a laid-back attitude from various departments to give vaccination to migrants.

Benoy Peter, executive director, Centre for Migration and Inclusive Development, which works for the welfare of migrants, said, “There are issues among the migrant population. A small section has vaccination hesitancy, while another section stays away from vaccination following scary reports in their native places. Though employers have been told to ensure that guest workers are given vaccines before employing them, the vaccine penetration is still dismally low among them,” he said.

In the imminent third wave, children and migrant workers would be the most affected as they would be the unvaccinated lots.

The migrant workers have relatively done well during the first and second waves. During the first wave, only a small section contracted the virus.

In the second wave, some have developed complications, but the fatality rate among them is very low.  

In the third wave, the infection rate is yet to be identified, but floating population would be the carriers of the virus if they remain unvaccinated, say health experts.

A study on ‘In-migration, Informal Employment and Urbanisation in Kerala’, sponsored by State Planning Board (Evaluation Division), has estimated the total number of other state domestic migrants in Kerala is about 31 lakh during 2017-18.

Among them, around 21 lakh came here on a temporary basis, whereas about 10 lakh migrants stayed for a longer period. Of the 10 lakh, only 5% (about 52,000) are living in Kerala along with their families. 

Vaccination drive 

Akhil Xavier Manuel, Ernakulam District Migrant Nodal Medical Officer, National Health Mission, said: “We are trying our best to vaccinate maximum number of migrant workers, including footloose workers, ahead of the third wave, although we have certain limitations. Migrant workers were not badly hit during the first and second waves compared to other sections of workers, but we cannot say the same would happen in the third wave.”


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