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Low vaccination worries in poll-bound Manipur

The COVID-19 vaccination pace in Manipur has remained quite low which has pushed the poll-bound state to a precarious situation.

Low vaccination worries in poll-bound Manipur

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  22 Jan 2022 6:03 AM GMT

The COVID-19 vaccination pace in Manipur has remained quite low which has pushed the poll-bound state to a precarious situation. Surging positivity rates in the state calls for adequate preventive measures during electioneering to ensure that spread of COVID1-19 infections do not put the highly vulnerable into unwarranted risks. The daily positivity rate jumped to 19.3% on Friday pushing the active caseload to 2,860. The actual number could be much higher as testing figures are quite low with less than 3,000 samples tested on Friday. The cumulative death toll due to COVID-19 since the outbreak of the pandemic has increased to 2,019. The state has so has far administered first dose to 66% of adult population and second dose to 52%. A large section of adult population not being fully vaccinated speaks volume about the huge gaps in the health sector when the state is celebrating 50th Statehood Day. The vaccination status in hill districts is even more worrying. Health experts have been cautioning that administering double doses and precaution doses to 60 plus population with comorbidity is important to protect people from severe symptoms and save lives. In Ukhrul district, percentage of fully vaccinated people, as revealed in official release issued by the Health Department, is abysmally low at 19.27% of the population while only 26% population in the district has so far been administered the first dose of vaccines. Similarly, in Tamenglong district, only 30% population have been fully vaccinated. Compared to hill districts, the vaccination coverage in valley districts is better but only in respect of first dose. Imphal district which accounted for the highest percentage of 74.84 first dose has so far achieved only 59.25% second dose which indicates that vaccination as a strategy to pandemic response failed to get the due attention. The Election Commission is expected to issue a new directive on restrictions on election rallies in all the five poll-bound states including Manipur after the extension of ban on rallies due to spike in COVID infections will come to an end on Sunday. The EC is likely to take note of vaccination status in Manipur, active caseload and daily positivity rates when taking a call on relaxing the restrictions on election rallies of political parties and candidates. The EC had earlier directed the State Government to increase the vaccination pace. It has also been insisting on 100% vaccination of polling staff apart from strict adherence to other safety protocols to ensure COVID-free polling in all poll-bound states. Increasing the testing has become an urgent necessity to detect and isolate the infected to stop circulation of the virus. Experts have assured that symptoms in infection caused by omicron variant is less severe and those fully vaccinated need not panic but they also warned that the delta variant of virus which devasted life in the country during the second wave is also in circulation. Political parties and candidates need to intensify awareness drive against vaccine hesitancy so that every single adult individual in the state is fully protected with both the doses of vaccines. Political parties can use their social media network on which they are running run poll campaigns to reach out to voters to make people aware on importance of vaccine to fight COVID-19. The Indian Council of Medical Research has recommended use of at-home antigen testing kits, but affordability has remained an issue for poor, downtrodden and low-income household. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare taking steps to make at home-testing kits affordable reduced can reduce the burden of testing on government testing centres or private hospitals. Such a measure will also help building resilience among the communities through early detection. The critical gaps in pandemic response in Manipur have brought lessons for next government to be installed in the state to prioritise budget spendings in health sector. The COVID-19 response also put countries, states, and communities on preparedness to handle disaster situation. Any complacency over low hospitalisation or low fatality in the current wave will come in the way of identifying and removing the gaps in disaster management. Health figures as a priority in poll manifestos of political parties and candidates. The prevailing COVID-situation and vaccination rate are expected to draw attention of the poll strategists to articulate polls promises for the health sector. While health sector must get attention above political considerations, promises to be made for improvement in health sector apart from other poll promises are sure to attract the voters. Political parties, candidates and their supporters must ensure that electioneering does not lead to further spread of infections and put lives of citizens to risk. The poll battle in Manipur will decide who is going to wear the crown for next five years, but the mankind needs to fight unitedly to win the war against the COVID-19 virus.

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