The Uttar Pradesh government and its health workers are sparing no efforts to vaccinate the state’s rural and tribal population by holding free vaccination camps. Members of some Adivasi communities are slowly coming forward to take the vaccine. Gaon Connection reports from a vaccination camp in the tribal dominated area in Mirzapur.
Rajauha (Mirzapur), Uttar Pradesh
Ram Prakash travelled on the morning of May 28, in a Bolero along with six others from his village Rahkala to Rajauha, in Marihan tehsil of Mirzapur. The vehicle belonged to the health department of the Uttar Pradesh government that was visiting remote villages to urge people to get vaccinated at the camps held nearby.
Prakash, a farm labourer, who said he was between 55 and 58 years of age, belonged to the tribal community of Kol, and had travelled nearly 25 kilometres to Adarsh Inter College in the development block of Vikaskhand Patehra, where the vaccination camp was held yesterday, on May 28. He received his first dose of the COVID vaccine and so did 42 other villagers.
The area in and around Marihan tehsil is dominated by tribal communities. But, fear of the vaccine, rumors about its efficacy and even stories of people dying after being vaccinated, has held most of them back from coming to the vaccination camps organised by the state government to inoculate rural India.
Gaon Connection has been reporting on how there is vaccine hesitancy in rural India and there is an urgent need to address this issue.
“There was fear initially. But, we have had other vaccinations before and we know it is to help us and not harm us,” Ram Prakash told Gaon Connection after receiving the shot.
With sustained efforts of district administration, local health officials and frontline workers like ASHAs (accredited social health activist) and ANMs (auxiliary nurse midwife), members of tribal communities are coming forward to get vaccinated against the COVID19 that has caused mayhem in rural India in the second wave of the pandemic.
While in some cases it was the difficulty in accessing vaccination centres that led to the people dragging their feet, the other more compelling reason was the fear of what could happen to them after the vaccination.
Yesterday around noon, there were about 15 people, most of them elderly, standing in a line outside Lakshman Hall in the Adarsh Inter College where health workers were administering the vaccination. Many of them in the queue were from the tribal settlements in the district.
In the echoing Lakshman Hall, health workers sat around tables with the vaccine ampules. Someone called out the names from their list and one by one the men and women came in.
Sanitisers from big plastic bottles were dispensed first to the person getting vaccinated after which the masked and gloved health workers gave them the jab. They asked them about medications they were taking if any and then asked them to wait for half an hour after their vaccination before leaving for home.
Ram Nath was also there to be vaccinated. He was from the Kol tribal community too and from the same village Rahkala as Ram Prakash.
“Hulla gulla macha rakha hai Corona ne (Corona has created so much commotion),” exclaimed Ram Nath. He told Gaon Connection that he too had heard stories about breathlessness, cold, coughs and fevers related to the virus and to the vaccines. But he was not going to be deterred by that.
Ram Nath was well aware of the COVID19 protocols, about masks, physical distancing, etc. “I have heard that people suffered a lot due to Coronavirus, but I have not seen that for myself,” he added. There are other rumours circulating in rural India too.
“The public at large is still showing reluctance to get vaccinated. Despite ASHA workers visiting them repeatedly and urging them to take the vaccine, people from the tribal communities are not very enthusiastic,” Swati Devi, community health officer (CHO) with the Patehara primary health centre, told Gaon Connection.
Swati also said fear of death, rumours that the government was administering local vaccines and allegations that the vaccine offered no protection against the coronavirus, were keeping the people away.
According to the CHO, yesterday (May 28), 43 people were vaccinated at the vaccination camp held at the Adarsh Inter College.
As the virus has spread deep inside rural India, the government is holding free vaccination camps in and around villages to inoculate the villagers, but it has been an uphill task to persuade them.
When Gaon Connection asked Gul Patti, who had come to the vaccination camp, how old she was, she dismissed the question with, “Now where will I go to find that information?” The old lady was from Khantra village and said while she had heard rumours about the alleged ills of the COVID vaccine, she had got her jab. “I am fine now,” she said.
“I felt no pain at all from the needle,” Ram Swami, also from Khantra, told Gaon Connection. She said she had heard that people got a fever and felt unwell after the vaccine, but she had decided to go ahead and take the vaccine anyway.
“All teachers and their families, not just in my college, but also from the other inter colleges in this block, are being vaccinated here,” Bechan Singh Patel, principal of Adarsh Inter College, where the vaccination camp was organised yesterday, told Gaon Connection.
“This is a tribal dominated area, and the adivasis are fearing taking the vaccination,” Patel said. “We must encourage and urge them to come forward. If they are told that they will get benefits from government welfare schemes in the future only if they get vaccinated, they may step forward,” he suggested.
Patel also said that it was perhaps the rainy weather that had kept some people away. But, as the drizzle became heavier, and the few people there headed to the nearest shelter they could find, Ravi Shankar Shukla, strode out of Lakshman Hall.
“I had my first dose and here is the proof,” he told Gaon Connection and brandished a slip of paper with his details on it. “I waited for half an hour, and I am feeling fine, so I am going home,” the 45-year-old said.
Meanwhile, on May 28, in a press briefing, Amit Mohan Prasad, the Additional Chief Secretary of Health, announced that all 75 districts in Uttar Pradesh would start inoculating those who are 18 years of age and above. “We have decided to inoculate at least 1,000 citizens every day in the less populated district,” he said.
In another press briefing on the same day, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar also stated that India will vaccinate all by this December-end.