Despite the tall claims of Department of Health Services of Manipur Government and Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren who also holds the health portfolio that Manipur would be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by September 30, 2021 and its continuing efforts to complete the vaccination drive, only 44.01 per cent of Manipur’s vaccine eligible targeted population of 23,41,000.
Moreover, the Election Commission asked the Chief Secretaries of five poll-bound states which include Manipur to “accelerate” the pace of COVID-19 vaccination while the Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself and Chief Ministers of the state where Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rule and led ruling governments and leaders of BJP counting the number of vaccinations and hailing it as an achievement every time a stipulated target is crossed.
Even though the State Health Department and Manipur Chief Minister is optimistic for full vaccination of the eligible persons with the launching of COVID Vaccination Express on October 11, 2021 for door-to-door COVID-19 vaccination drive, the vaccination rate is still low.
After launching the COVID Vaccination Express, Chief Minister Biren tweeted, “Delighted to launch 15 Covid Vaccination Express in Manipur today. Under the guidance of our Hon’ble PM Shri@narendramodi Ji, it is our resolve to vaccinate all eligible persons at the earliest. These vans will cover every household to vaccinate & bring our life back to normal.”
It may be mentioned that Manipur Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren flagged off 80 COVID-19 Vaccine Express vehicles at Khuman Lampak Indoor Stadium on November 11, 2021 in a bid to cover maximum number of people under COVID-19 vaccination drive in the state.
According to a Facebook post of Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren, these mobile vaccination vehicles aims to cover 13 districts in few days and vaccinate all eligible persons at their doorsteps.
Earlier, a total of 40 such vehicles were also flagged off by the Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren for door-to-door COVID-19 vaccination for Imphal West, Imphal East and Senapati districts.
Notably, the 120 vehicles and staff for COVID-19 Vaccination Express have been provided by Care India, an NGO under their CSR programme which focuses on holistic and sustainable changes for women empowerment, health and child education in rural areas.
Even with these efforts, only 10,30,181 are fully vaccinated out of State’s total vaccination of 24,27,289 as on January 21, 2022 according to CoWIN Dashboard while the vaccination drive has completed a year on January 16.
Now, it is pertinent to ask why Manipur is this low of COVID-19 vaccinations being third-lowest state according to CoWIN, Government of India’s official tracking portal.
State government officials justify these low percentages of COVID-19 vaccinations in Manipur that these are partly attributable to human behaviour, namely vaccine hesitancy, and partly to discrepancies in data about Manipur’s population.
Still another question crops up why the State Health Department take too long to convince the people of Manipur which has high literacy rate amongst the states of India to clear vaccine hesitancy and change human behaviour.
Report quoting Vualnam Vumlunmang, Additional Chief Secretary (Health) of Manipur Government said that the low rate is attributable to the Union Health Ministry’s population targets exceeding the actual number of people in the state.
This means that there may be a difference between Manipur’s actual vaccination rates versus the number reflected on CoWIN, the government’s official tracking portal.
It is well known that Government of India’s Health and Family Welfare Ministry’s target is based on the population percentage as provided by the Registrar General of India (RGI).
Further, it is reported that when Additional Chief Secretary (Health) Vumlunmang said, “When we spoke to the Government of India’s Health and Family Welfare Ministry, they said that it’s an estimate and there could be a difference of a few lakhs. For a state like ours where the numbers are small, a few lakhs make a very big difference.”
It may also be mentioned that the controversy over population data since the 2001 Census in Manipur has not be resolved yet. The 2001 Census recorded an extremely high growth in the population of the hill districts as high as 169 per cent, increasing their population share vis-à-vis the valley. In 2005, the Gauhati High Court passed a judgment saying that a fresh counting of the people should be done in nine sub–divisions of three hill districts, but the Supreme Court later stayed this direction.
There is a question of why Senapati district has such a low target of 97,654 as against the population data while Kangpokpi district has achieved the lowest rates of 20.32 per cent first dose and 13.67 per cent of second dose as against the target of 2,26,948 vaccine eligible persons.
Therefore, it may also be considered that local head counts and the Health Ministry’s vaccination target of 23,41,00 persons who are 18 years are divergent.
Department of Health Services of Government of Manipur is more reliable on State Electoral data.
However, based on electoral data of 20,34,966 published on January 5, 2022 around 66.60 per cent of Manipur’s electorate received first dose of COVID-19 vaccination while only 50.62 per cent are fully vaccinated as on January 21, 2022.
It may be reminded on August 21 last year, Imphal Reviews of Arts and Politics (IRAP) published that no sign of achieving Manipur governments target of 100 percent COVID-19 vaccination by September 2021 because of the pace of the vaccination drive carried out by the state government while there is no vaccination in most of the state health facilities on Sundays and holidays when many people are convenient to go for vaccination on such days.
Again on October 16, 2021 Imphal Review of Arts and Politics (IRAP) published Manipur Government missed September target for 100 percent covid-19 vaccination, still to go a long way warning the need to step up the vaccination drive by finding out the factors of slowing down in achieving the target for hundred percent vaccinations set by the state government.
Even though door-to-door vaccination drive is going on, there is lack of mobilisation and awareness campaign for the drive. Without prior mobilisation and organisation, door-to-door vaccination drive will be in vain when the eligible persons are not available at their homes.
Unfortunately, Manipur has recorded the highest positivity rate of 19.3 per cent in the last five months with 576 new positives leading to cumulative positives of 1,29,257 while 1,24, 378 cases are recovered and 2,860 cases remain active as on January 21, 2022.
Amidst the sudden surge of COVID-19 in Manipur and low vaccination rate, the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly Election is scheduled to be held on February 27 and March 3, 2022. Even though the model code of conduct for the election is in force with restrictions of election campaigns, road shows and public meetings etc, the spread of COVID-19 as third wave is not stoppable now.
While strict maintaining COVID-19 SOPs and full vaccinations are the only available means so far to fight COVID-19, Manipur needs to speed up the vaccination drive.
Senior Editor: Imphal Review of Arts and Politics