Meghalaya Legislative Assembly

Shillong: The hesitancy witnessed among healthcare workers (HCW) in Meghalaya to take Covid-19 vaccine was the topic of discussion in the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly on Monday during the Budget Session.

Meghalaya Health Minister James Sangma shared that currently there are a total of 2,456 unvaccinated HCWs in government hospitals and 49 unvaccinated HCWs in private hospitals in the state.

The minister pegged at 10% the Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy rate among the state’s HCWs.

To a question raised by Mawsynram MLA Himalaya M Shangpliang, the health department said it is looking at vaccinating 28,708 HCWs in government hospitals that includes Asha workers.

According to Shangpliang, based on a report by Indian Institute of Public Health (IIPH) Shillong, 93 doctors, 462 nurses and 434 non-medical staff working in government hospitals have refused vaccination. In the private sector, the number stands at 43 doctors, 144 nurses and 147 non medical staff who are hesitant.

“This picture shows that the hesitancy rate is more in government hospital. Why so much hesitancy among government HCWs?” asked Shangpliang.

The health minister replied that there are several reasons and the health department is making all efforts to conduct counselling sessions and awareness programmes.

According to Sangma, as per the IIPH report, some of the reasons cited include concerns over the alleged side effects of the vaccine, confusion over the choice of vaccine available to HCWs, while some have reasoned that none of their relatives and friends have been vaccinated and have told them not to get it too.

Other reasons include the fear of needles and the ensuing pain, messages circulating on social media against vaccination, and some believe that they have developed natural immunity and that is sufficient, the minister shared.

Sangma said some of the HCWs have shared that they feel Covid-19 infection is not serious, so they feel it is not important to take the vaccine, while some have responded that since “influential leaders” do not support the vaccine, they don’t feel the need for taking the vaccine.  

On the question of Mawsynram MLA whether the counselling has had any impact, the health minister informed the House that they have definitely seen more HCWs coming forward but there is 70%-80% who are still hesitant.

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