The Centre on Tuesday expressed concern about “vaccine hesitancy” among healthcare workers, with NITI Aayog Member (Health) VK Paul saying that doctors, nurses and other frontline workers should fulfil their “social responsibility” by getting inoculated.

The health ministry, during its briefing on the coronavirus situation in the country, said that 1,48,266 beneficiaries were vaccinated on Monday. A total of 4,54,049 have been vaccinated in India so far. The countrywide vaccination programme began on January 16.

“A lot of efforts have gone into making the vaccines,” Paul said. “If our healthcare workers, especially doctors and nurses are declining it, then it’s very upsetting. We never know what form this pandemic could take, how big it could get, so please get vaccinated.”

The NITI Aayog official also said the concerns pertaining to the coronavirus vaccines having “adverse effects and serious problems seem to be unfounded and insignificant”. He reasserted that the two vaccines, Serum Institute’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, are safe.

“If there is an adverse effect, there are all preparations in place,” Paul added. “But let me assure you that adverse events are not even taking place to a significant scale. The hesitancy about adverse effects among healthcare workers needs to end. This vaccine hesitancy needs to end.”

An adverse event following immunisation, or AEFI, is any unexpected medical occurrence following inoculation but may or may not be related to the vaccine or the vaccination process.

During the briefing on Tuesday, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said only 0.18% fall under the AEFI category, and 0.002% had to be hospitalised, which he deemed as “fairly low”, adding: “ fact lowest so far as we know in the world in the first three days of vaccination.”

Bhushan also presented data of vaccinations done in other countries. He said India inoculated 2,07,229 people on the first day, while the United States vaccinated 79,458 beneficiaries. He went on to provide data on vaccinations done in the first day in the United Kingdom (19,700) and France (73).

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“The important point here is that if we look at the first week figures then the US conducted vaccinations of 5,56,208 people so that number will already cross by day 3,” Bhushan said, according to PTI. “In the UK, in the first seven days 1,37,897 were vaccinated, 516 people were vaccinated in France in the first week and in Russia 52,000 people were vaccinated in the first week. So these are the comparative figures for you and we have just started so we will pick up speed.”

The Union health secretary listed the states performing better in Covid-19 vaccine coverage, including Lakshadweep at 89.3%, Sikkim at 85.7%, Odisha at 82.6%, and Telangana at 81.1%. Bhushan also said five states – Kerala, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and West Bengal – contributed to 72% of India’s active cases.

The Union Health Ministry on Monday said that 580 adverse events following immunisation were reported since India’s coronavirus vaccination drive began.

India, which has reported the highest number of coronavirus infections after the United States, plans to vaccinate around 30 crore people with two doses in the first six to eight months of the year. The recipients include 3 crore doctors, nurses and other front-line workers, to be followed by people who are either over 50 or have illnesses that make them vulnerable to the virus.

Beneficiaries, however, will not be able to choose between the Oxford University-AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine, produced by the Serum Institute of India, and Covaxin, a government-backed, indigenous one from Bharat Biotech, whose efficacy is not known.

Meanwhile, Bharat Biotech, the makers of Covaxin, on Monday advised people not to take the coronavirus vaccine if they have allergies, fever or bleeding disorder or are on blood thinners. In a fact sheet about the process involved and who should avoid taking the vaccine, the Hyderabad-based pharmaceutical firm added pregnant and breastfeeding women to the list of people who should avoid taking Covaxin shots.