Odisha district makes vaccination compulsory for traders
Sundargarh, an Odisha district, which reported about 40,000 cases of Covid-19 during the second wave of the pandemic in April and May this year, has announced that owners of businesses and shops of the town who have not been vaccinated may not be allowed to reopen their establishments now.
Sundargarh sub-collector Abhimanyu Behera said as per the order issued by Sundargarh district collector and administrator of Sundargarh municipality Nikhil Pawan Kalyan, owners of businesses and shops of the town who have not been vaccinated may not be allowed to open their establishments now.
“The first norm of the Covid-19 management protocols is that it is executed for the welfare of the public, so people need to be aware and cooperate with the authorities, be it for enforcement of guidelines or vaccination. The initiative is aimed at motivating people to align with the norms of the government, especially some sections of people who are hesitant about the inoculation drive,” Behera said.
“Shopkeepers who have not received jabs and also not ensured vaccination to their sales executives will not be allowed to open their businesses,” he added.
Odisha government on Wednesday announced relaxations in lockdown restrictions in 17 of the 30 districts, including Sundargarh, by allowing traders to open their shops between 6am and 5pm as the positivity rate (ratio of total number of cases for the day to number of samples tested) and Covid-19 caseload had come down in those places.Sundargarh, which in April and May saw a positivity rate of over 40% with an active caseload of 10,000 in May has now reported a positivity rate of 4.5% and 1,682 active cases.
Officials said the decision to enforce vaccination was meant to motivate more people to take part in the vaccination drive to defeat Covid-19. Last week, some shopkeepers in Hinjili area of Ganjam district offered a discount of at least 5% to fully vaccinated people upon purchase of groceries. “The district administration suggested we do something for those taking jabs. So we decided to offer a discount,” said Duryodhan Sahu, a trader.
The decision on vaccination comes amid vaccine hesitancy prevalent in several districts, including tribal-dominated Rayagada and Nabarangpur.
Last week, around 500-odd Kondh tribals of Champakana village in Rayagada’s Kolnara block fled their homes hours before the vaccination team from the Kolnara community health centre arrived there. When the medical team with 100 doses of Covishield arrived at the village in the morning, the villagers fled to the nearby forest after a video claiming that those vaccinated would die within 2-3 years went viral.
“There seems to be some vaccine hesitancy among people in the district. We are trying to remove vaccine hesitancy through awareness meetings,” said Rayagada district collector Saroj Mishra.
“It’s proving a difficult task to convince the tribals to get the jab before the onset of another wave. But we hope to persuade them,” said Dr Sovarani Mishra, CDMO, Nabarangpur.
Gouranga Mohapatra, state convenor of Jana Swasthya Abhiyan, an NGO working on rural health, said folk art can be used to convince people in rural areas. “Vaccine hesitancy has always been an issue in villages even before Covid-19 started. Mediums like folk song can be used to dispel fear of vaccine,” said Mohapatra.
Nodal officer for Covid-19 vaccination in Odisha Bijay Panigrahi said so far 7.45 million people in the state have been given at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine while around 1.8 million have got both doses of vaccine. There are 30.9 million people in Odisha above the age of 18 years who are eligible for vaccination.
“The state government plans to raise the daily vaccination to 300,000 so that the entire state can be vaccinated before the onset of a possible third wave. Everything however depends upon vaccine availability,” said Dr Panigrahi.