CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu has vaccinated only 37 per cent of antenatal mothers against Covid-19. According to the data provided by the Directorate of Public Health, as of August 16, out of the 7,08,342 antenatal mothers in the State, as many as 2,58,994 were vaccinated in the drive that began on July 4.
Speaking at an event in Chennai on Friday, Health Minister Ma Subramanian said Ariyalur became the first district to vaccinate all eligible 6,981 pregnant women. However, in Chennai, only 10,225 pregnant women, that is only 24 per cent of the total 42,310, have been administered the jab. While 19 districts clocked over 40 per cent inoculation of pregnant women, the low vaccination rate remains a concern, said experts.
Doctors opined that hesitancy is prevalent among antenatal mothers due to various factors like fear of vaccines, pressure by family asking to delay it, and lack of awareness. Antenatal mothers constitute the high-risk category as they pose a higher risk of exposure to Covid due to frequent hospital visits.
Dr MS Hemalatha, additional city health officer of Chennai Corporation’s public health department, said the civic body has been motivating pregnant women every time they show up at the public health centres or the urban community health centres. “Our doctors and nurses have been directed to provide them with health education. However, hesitancy still prevails as they have doubts over vaccine. Some say they will consult with their family and return,” she said.
‘Lower vaccination rate worrisome’
According to data provided by the city corporation, a total of 6,337 postnatal mothers, too, have been administered the jab, with 6,199 receiving the first dose and 138 receiving the second dose.
While Chennai’s overall vaccination rate is marginally lesser than the State average, the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Government Hospital for Women and Children (IOG), in Chennai, have vaccinated all the antenatal mothers who have visited the hospital so far.
Data from the IOG shows that 1,807 antenatal mothers and 628 post-natal mothers have received the jab. Dr S Vijaya, Director at the IOG, said counselling was the key to achieve 100 per cent vaccination among the category. “As and when they arrived, we counselled and tested them for comorbidities. We immediately administered the dose and also followed up with them through phone,” she said, adding that there has been no complication among pregnant women so far, after vaccination.
However, experts are concerned over the overall lower rate of vaccination in the State. “Unlike other groups, antenatal mothers frequently visit hospitals and are highly exposed to the virus. The data shows there is a reluctance among them,” said Dr K Kolandasamy, former director of Public Health. He said that one does not have to fear the vaccine. “Pregnant women can take the vaccine at 16 weeks itself. All of their families, too, must be administered vaccine,” he said.
‘Many still afraid of vaccine’
Dr Vijaylakshmi Balakrishnan, Infectious Diseases Specialist at Kauvery Hospital, also echoed a similar view. “Generally, pregnant women think that they won’t contract the virus since they are mostly inside the house. Also, most of them are afraid of the vaccine. It has almost been eight months since the vaccination drive began in the country, and now we have adequate data about it. They are completely safe,” Vijaylakshmi Balakrishnan said.
100 Per cent vaccination
While Chennai’s overall vaccination rate is marginally lesser than the State average, the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Chennai, has vaccinated all the antenatal mothers who have visited the hospital so far