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News : Vax Safety Queries Inundate Sassoon


Pune, India, Jan 22, 2021 -- As the number of COVID-19 cases came down, the calls to ‘Man-Sanwad’ — the helpline started by Sassoon General Hospitals (SGH) and BJ Medical College (BJMC) — had also re-ceded. But, since December, with the news of the imminent vaccination drive coming in, the phone lines have gotten busy once again. Predictably, most of the queries now pertain to the vaccines, which evidently have turned into a new point of anxiety for the public.

The helpline (020-26127331) launched in April 2020 was to offer psychological support to patients and their relatives, with everybody struggling with the nuances of a new disease. Operating between 8 am and 8 pm, it took calls not just from common citizens, but also healthcare workers, including doctors. The queries were answered by a team comprising a psychologist, psychiatrist and psychiatric social worker.

"Since December, the helpline again started averaging 30-40 calls a day — and now, most of the questions were related to the vaccines and vaccination process. There were suddenly very few queries about COVID-19 treatment," said Dr Nitin Abhivant, who helms the psychiatric department of BJMC.

The questions that are coming include ones about the safety of the vaccines, the choice of vaccine, the nature of vaccine (injectable or oral), the availability of free vaccination, its pricing, the dosage, the place of availability, its effectiveness, side effects, its availability to the general public and such others.

"The calls are coming in from across the state and they are only increasing. We expect their number go up exponentially in the coming days. At present, only healthcare workers are being vaccinated. Once it opens up to frontline workers and the general public, we’ll have to keep the helpline live round the clock, just as we did at the peak of the pandemic. It will help people get a better idea on the need for and process of vaccination from mental health experts and will boost the number going for vaccination," pointed out Dr M Tambe, dean of BJMC.

Amit Chauhan, who’d called the helpline, shared, "We were all desperately waiting for the vaccine. Now that it is here, we have many questions about it. Calling the helpline cleared a lot of my doubts. Now, I want my entire family to get vaccinated, particularly the elders. My queries were mostly about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. They’ve all been answered and I am ready for it when it becomes available to general public."


Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent

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