Tamil Nadu claims 30% vaccination coverage, but real figures may be half | Chennai News – Times of India

CHENNAI: The daily report prepared by the directorate of public health to the state government has been hyping the Covid-19 vaccination coverage in Tamil Nadu as 30%, although the coverage is just half of that, analysis by TOI shows.
To make things worse, the directorate uses an unscientific method to add phase 1 serosurvey results to inflate the number of people who fall under the protective umbrella against viral infection to 62%.
On July 20, for instance, the vaccination coverage report said that of the eligible 6.06 crore adults in the state, 1.49 crore people have so far taken the first dose and 34.22 lakh people have taken the second dose.
This means nearly 25% of the population has taken the first dose and 6% has taken the second dose.
However, the DPH report shows the percentage of vaccine coverage as 30%. It then adds 32% of the seropositivity rate to take the total number to show “Total Vaccination(%) + Sero Surveillance Positivity rate (%)” as 62%.
A senior official in the public health department explains they added the number of people who took the first dose and number of people who took both doses to show the number of doses that have been completed.
Public health experts and epidemiologists point out that in that case, officials should have divided the tally with the dosage target (twice the population as everyone gets two doses of the vaccine).
The coverage in terms of doses would then be just 16% — less than 2 crore of the 12-crore population – against the 30% quoted by the report.
“This is needless misinterpretation of data, which can cause serious problems when uses the data to plan health policies including unlocking strategies and preventive steps against the anticipated third wave,” said public health expert R Sunderraman, former director of the National Health Systems Resource Centre.
“Everyone knows there is a vaccine shortage. So, what is wrong with saying the exact number?” he said.
What has upset public health experts, including members of medical expert committee and task force, even more is the government’s “unscientific” method to add seropositivity rate (phase I study) done in 2020 to the vaccinated. During the sero survey, government tests for Covid antibodies that protect people against further infections.
These antibodies develop either after Covid infection or after vaccinations.
DPH officials say that the first phase of the serosurvey done in 2020 is used only because no person is vaccinated. But senior microbiologists like Dr Gagandeep Kang from Vellore Institute of Medical Sciences had earlier told TOI that seropositivity rates and vaccination rates cannot be simply added as some seropositive individuals would have been vaccinated later.
“Even with high levels of seropositivity and vaccination, we still have a large population that is unprotected but that will, hopefully, decrease with increased vaccine coverage over time,” she said.
While the first sero study showed antibodies in 32% of the population, it dropped to 28% in April.
The comprehensive results of the third phase sero survey conducted during the second wave is still not available publicly, although officials say they expect it to touch at least 50%.
“Even then we have to show these two figures independently,” said Dr Sunderraman.

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