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India campaigns to address Coronavirus vaccine hesitancy


India’s COVID-19 vaccines is safe and people should not fear them or heed to false information, according to Harsh Vardhan, Indian Health Minister, he said as part of efforts to address what his ministry identified as vaccine hesitancy.

The India vaccine rollout began on Jan. 16, with 30 million health workers and ancillary personnel to be vaccinated in the initial round, but the going has been slow with less than 60 per cent of the target met over the first five days.

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A total 786,842 health workers had been vaccinated as of Wednesday evening, according to the Health Ministry.

Oxford University and Astra Zeneca’s vaccine manufactured by India’s Serum Institute under the name Covishield and Bharat Biotech Limited’s indigenously developed Covaxin are both in use as part of the programme.

Hesitancy to take the vaccine has been ascribed to fears of adverse reactions and the presence of antibodies among health workers, who have been working with COVID-19 patients for many months.

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Glitches in an app developed to manage the programme has also slowed it down.

The ministry rolled out social media campaign material urging people to ignore fears, rumours and misinformation regarding the vaccines.

There were several messages from leading medical professionals endorsing the vaccines and saying they had suffered no adverse reactions after taking them.

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India has the second largest Coronavirus caseload after the United States, with a total of more than 10.6 million infections and 152,869 related deaths.

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