Eliminating ‘hesitancy’ to script a success story

Monika Yadav New Delhi | Updated on October 21, 2021

Frontline workers, the real champions of India’s 100 crore vaccination drive

Harshali Purohit, a young volunteer under the government’s Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram, along with her team, took it upon themselves to root out misinformation on Covid vaccination and address the deeply entrenched vaccine hesitancy in their village.

Door-to-door campaign

A resident of Narsingh Runda village, Madhya Pradesh, they went door to door to individually address vaccine apprehensions in the community.

India’s 100 crore vaccination would not have been possible without its healthcare and frontline workers, who left no stone unturned in eliminating hesitancy from the minds of people. And for this, they sometimes had to cross rough terrain to get the vaccines to underserved and remote locations, according to a Health Ministry book showcasing their efforts.

“We had to convince people in ways they understood. So, we adopted a customary tradition practised to invite community members to weddings in which a mixture of rice and turmeric is placed at the door of the guest. Instead, we placed the mixture of rice and turmeric at the door of eligible beneficiaries as an invitation to come for Covid vaccination,” said Harshali. “People were pleasantly piqued and they agreed to come for the vaccination,” she further added.

Busting myths

Ashwathy Murali from Wayanad district, Kerala, helped bust vaccine myths by sharing information in her local dialect. About 18 per cent of the people in Wayanad are tribals from the Paniyar community, one of the most backward communities. Ashwathy acted like a bridge between them and the world outside their community.

“The one source of information one would find in every household in my village is a radio. Therefore, when the vaccination drive started, I knew that this was the only way in which I could reach people to address their misconceptions. I used to listen to the radio since eighth standard. I always liked radio more than TV.

“During the pandemic, I listened to programmes that featured doctors. Since they were in English, I wrote down everything they said. Then I translated with the help of Google in a way I could understand, and finally into Paniya language,” said Ashwathy recalling her experience.

“Though often I had to burn the midnight oil, it was all worth it when I was able to address the queries from the community. Every person vaccinated gave me a sense of personal triumph,” she added.

Banswara district in Rajasthan, a tribal-dominated region, posed a huge topographical challenge even as healthcare workers travelled to far flung islands across Mahi river. In this district because of the river dam, many villages are water locked and can be reached only by boat because of the river dam.

“I would have never ever thought that one day I would need to ferry vaccines and medicines on my boat to Kotda village on the other side of the Mahi river. This was extremely difficult, especially when it rained as the village was cut off. This kind of planning by the administration makes us feel extremely confident and proud,” a local boatman said.

“We went from village to village, door to door, and explained to people the risk of exposure to Covid disease and the benefit of vaccination. We told them that we, too, had taken both the doses of the vaccine and were safe,” said Dr Mukesh Maida.

“Slowly, the vaccination drive picked up. Committees were formed in villages and they started further explaining to the people how it was the best way of protection against the pandemic. Convincing the locals to overcome their hesitancy was an exercise both of patience and reasoning. Gradually, the word spread around,” Maida further stated.

Published on October 21, 2021

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