Chennai: Despite a robust health care system, Tamil Nadu has fallen behind in the vaccine race and is among the bottom five states in terms of vaccinating its population against coronavirus. So far, the state has inoculated only nine per cent of its 70 million population with the first dose of the vaccine. This has put the state right at the bottom of the list of states with low vaccination percentage along with UP, Assam, Bihar and Jharkhand.
Tamil Nadu now ranks much below states like Gujarat which, with a comparable population, has vaccinated 20.5% of its population with a single dose and Kerala which has achieved 22.4% coverage. Health authorities attributed the poor show to the initial vaccine hesitancy in the state and said that things are better now. A patient from Chennai, who was part of the vaccine trial, had alleged adverse impact and popular comedian Vivek died a few days after taking his first dose.
Between January and February, Tamil Nadu could administer only 457,000 doses, but the rate of vaccination rose by more than 5 times in March, crossing 28,00,000 doses that month and nearly seven times in May, crossing 30,00,000 doses, authorities said. The state government also accused the Centre of supplying vaccines only according to utilisation and not in proportion with the state's population.
Now authorities claim that there is high awareness and many takers for the vaccine but there are no jabs in the state except for just over a thousand doses in Chennai. Tamil Nadu Health Secretary Dr J Radhakrishnan said, "Now we personally feel that it should not be held against Tamil Nadu. There is no vaccine hesitancy now and people are getting vaccinated in a big way. So, we need to calculate it on this basis and supply. Government of India has more than doubled our supply from May to June."
Chief Minister MK Stalin has tacitly blamed the union government of dispatching more vaccines to BJP-ruled states with lesser population. The Centre has denied this. While vaccine hesitancy did slow down Tamil Nadu, the second wave has led to a sharp rise in demand for vaccines and now state's demand stands at 20 million doses a month – 600,000 doses a day. With vaccine stocks nearly drying up in Tamil Nadu, many say pressure is mounting on the Centre to dispatch more vaccine doses to this southern state.