From Tripura and the Nilgiris, a lesson for India

Local administrations in both regions had to overcome stiff challenges, particularly the remote location of many villages and a high level of vaccine hesitancy
Frontline workers wait for their health check up before getting inoculated with the Covid-19 vaccine in Chennai. (File photo) PREMIUM
Frontline workers wait for their health check up before getting inoculated with the Covid-19 vaccine in Chennai. (File photo)
Updated on Jul 01, 2021 05:13 PM IST
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ByHT Editorial

Tamil Nadu’s mountainous Nilgiris district, on Wednesday, achieved 100% partial vaccination (one dose) of its tribal population. A similar story of success has emerged from Tripura. With 98% of its 45-plus population and 80% of the 18+ population getting at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, the state has one of the highest vaccination figures in the country. Local administrations in both regions had to overcome stiff challenges, particularly the remote location of many villages and a high level of vaccine hesitancy.

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In both Tripura and Nilgiris, local authorities used innovative methods to convince people about the importance of taking the Covid-19 vaccines. In Nilgiris, the district administration brought together members of a scheduled tribes council, doctors, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to dispel rumours that vaccine recipients would die after taking a dose or that taking a jab causes impotency in men. Officials also convinced tribal leaders to get vaccinated first, and created songs in native languages that extolled the benefits of the vaccines. In Tripura, the chief minister sent personalised letters, exhorting people to get vaccinated, in Hindi, Bengali, and indigenous dialects such as Kokborok. Awareness campaigns were done through public announcement systems and pamphlets were distributed in local languages and dialects. There were also door-to-door camps and awareness and vaccination camps at anganwadi centres. In both regions, frontline health staff trekked for miles to reach the last vaccine-eligible person.

These two success stories show that it is essential to invest in vaccine-related communication and confidence-building measures before starting the actual process; involve all stakeholders such as NGOs and community leaders in the drive; build a strong cadre of dedicated frontline health staff who are well-trained, motivated, and adequately compensated; and pay special attention to the disadvantaged and marginalised. From the east and the south, there is a lesson for the rest of India.

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Friday, January 28, 2022