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80% Of Military, Central Security Forces Have Got First Shot

(This was originally posted in The Print by Ananya Bhardwaj and Amrita Nayak Dutta)

New Delhi: More than 80 percent of the personnel in India’s security forces — including armed and police forces — have received the first Covid shot, according to data gathered by ThePrint. However, it is a different story when it comes to both the doses of the jab.

In the Army, the Indian Air Force (IAF), and the Navy, 50 per cent of the personnel have been administered the complete two-dose regimen, with the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) — three of India’s Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) — mirroring the trend.

The number lags at less than 40 percent for state police forces in Maharashtra, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh, which are among the states showing an upward trajectory in Covid cases. The number is as low as 26 percent for Punjab.  

In the three states, 70-80 per cent of police personnel have received the first dose.

In Delhi, where Covid cases have been surging as well, the statistics are healthier, with 62 per cent of police personnel having received both the shots. As many as 90 per cent of the police personnel in the national capital have received the first dose.

Data for this report has been individually gathered from each of the forces mentioned.

Vaccination for security personnel — who have been classified as frontline workers amid the Covid pandemic — began in the first phase of the drive that was kicked off 16 January.

Sources in the defence forces said the vaccination drive for the Army, the IAF and the Navy is progressing at a rapid pace, with the authorities also making an effort to immunise family members of personnel who meet the age criterion set for the general public. 

There is no age bar for health and frontline personnel, but, among the general public, only those aged 45 and above can currently get vaccinated.

Meanwhile, officials in the police forces for Maharashtra, which has been reporting the highest number of Covid-19 cases, and Uttar Pradesh deny the vaccination is proceeding slowly. They say the number of fully vaccinated personnel is low only because of the 6-8-week interval mandated between the two doses. ThePrint reached Punjab DGP Dinkar Gupta over phone and through messages but there was no response till the time of publishing this report.

50% personnel in CAPFs vaccinated

Among the CAPFs, the CRPF (which has 2.9 lakh personnel), the BSF (2.65 lakh) and the ITBP (85,000), have fully vaccinated 50 per cent of the personnel.

In these three forces, frontline healthcare workers were the first to receive the vaccine and 90 per cent of them have been given one dose.

“In CRPF, 2,51,820 personnel, or 88.2 per cent, have received the first dose. Over 1,48,743 personnel, 52 per cent, have received the second dose as well,” said a senior CRPF officer. “The ones who have not received the second dose are the ones waiting for the time between the two doses to end.” 

“The vaccination process is on and personnel are willing to take the jab. There are personnel who were initially reluctant to take the jab, but we made them aware of the importance of vaccines,” a senior BSF officer said.

In the CRPF, 82 personnel have lost their life to Covid, with 49 deaths reported in the BSF and 13 in the ITBP.

In the armed forces

More than 90 per cent of the serving personnel of the three armed forces have received one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, and more than 50 per cent have got both doses, according to data accessed by ThePrint.

Defence sources told ThePrint that the Covid-19 vaccination drive has been progressing rapidly for the defence services. Being frontline workers, personnel of the services have been vaccinated irrespective of age, they added.

“Covishield is the vaccine used in the armed forces. Dependents of serving personnel aged more than 45 years old are being vaccinated at service hospitals in line with the national policy,” a source said. “The armed forces are strictly following Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) guidelines,” the source added.

“Since vaccines were made available by the MoHFW simultaneously across the country, no prioritisation was required for vaccinating personnel deployed in border areas,” the source said.

No serious side-effects have been observed among vaccinated personnel, the source added.

Last month, the government told Parliament that 119 armed forces personnel had died of Covid-19, with a total of 44,766 contracting the disease. 

The deaths included 81 in the Army (out of 33,003 infections), two in the Navy (3,604), and 36 in the IAF (8,159).

Police in states lag behind

In Delhi Police, 49,936, or 62 per cent, of the 80,076 personnel have received both doses. Other states, however, lag behind.

In Punjab, just 26 per cent of the police personnel have been fully vaccinated.

In Maharashtra, 64,000 personnel have been vaccinated in a force of 2 lakh, which amounts to 32 per cent. The figure is 38.4 per cent for Uttar Pradesh, where 1,13,937 of the state’s 2,96,501 personnel have been fully vaccinated.

Although the number of fully vaccinated personnel remains low, police across states say the vaccination drive is on track.

“The process is not slow. It is expected. This is because there has to be a gap between the first and second doses of the Covid-19 vaccine,” said Maharashtra Additional Director General of Police (Establishment) Kulwant Kumar Sarangal.

“Earlier, the gap was 28 days as per the protocol, but the protocol changed. And now the gap must be 6 to 8 weeks. Besides, the choice to get vaccinated is voluntary for the police personnel and the department only facilitates the vaccination if one opts for it.” 

In UP, a senior officer said the vaccination drive is being carried out with full strength. “Our men are frontline workers and to ensure they are safe, we are encouraging them to go for vaccination. Over 2,30,000 of our personnel have got the first dose, which is about 80 percent, and over 35 per cent have got the second dose. Once they receive the dose after the stipulated gap, they too will be fully vaccinated. It is only a matter of time,” the officer added.

Explaining the difference between vaccination among state police and the armed and central police forces, UP Additional Director General of Police Prashant Kumar said, “The doses of the armed police and defence forces were given to them directly by the Centre and administered by their paramedical staff.

“For states, the doses were given through state dispensaries and medical camps, which is why the slight difference in numbers. But the vaccination is going on at a good pace. More than 80 per cent of the personnel have got the first dose, and they will get the second dose too. It is just a matter of time.”

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Kartik Sud

I am working as a News Author With the DefenceXP network, Observing LOC and LAC

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