With vaccine hesitancy cast aside, rural residents of Unnao and Barabanki in UP throng vaccination centres but return empty handed

Just a month back, there were reports of vaccine hesitancy in rural Uttar Pradesh and the state govt was working hard to quell it. Now villagers are travelling long distances but despite making several trips, are not receiving the vaccine, they complain. Details here.

Sumit Yadav
| Updated: Last updated on August 2nd, 2021,


Barabanki, Unnao (Uttar Pradesh)

His face glistening with sweat on a hot and humid afternoon, 60-year-old Ram Khilawan showed clear signs of exasperation as he stood outside a crowded vaccination centre, waiting to get the ‘Corona teeka’ (COVID19 vaccine jab).

It wasn’t the first time that he had visited the vaccination camp. He has been here thrice and has ensured to reach the centre in the morning on all three days — yet his quest to get the Corona teeka isn’t over yet. 

Khilawan’s Gadha Pakariyapur village is situated at a distance of almost five kilometres from the vaccination centre at the National Inter College in the Fatehpur block of Barabanki district in Uttar Pradesh. 

Ram Khilawan outside the vaccination camp in Barabanki’s Fatehpur.

“Aath baje, right time aa gaye the hum aaj… dus baje khula ye… saadhe dus baje lagna shuru hua…  line me lage rahe… ek baje number aaya tab bhi lag nahin paaya abhi tak,” said the 60-year-old in short, rapid bursts of sentences. (I reached here at 8 am sharp, the officials came at 10 am, vaccination began at 10:30 am, I stood in queue all along, my turn came at 1 pm yet I haven’t been able to get the jab yet)

Also Read: Fear of testing positive is making villagers in Madhya Pradesh avoid visit to COVID test centres

“When my turn came at 1 pm, the officials told me to get my Aadhaar number printed on my ID card. I got that done and I’m standing in the queue again,” said Ram Khilawan who cultivates fields for a living and coming to the centre each day means loss of three days of work to him.

Ram Khilawan, who walks up the distance to the vaccination camp, is not alone in his daily quest to get vaccinated. 

Also Read: ‘Working with children with disabilities, and amidst the adivasi communities in the pandemic was challenging’

He is surrounded by swarms of people  who have reached the centre to get inoculated against COVID19 infection and amidst a gathering of at least a thousand people, physical distancing has gone for a toss and masks are hardly anywhere to be seen.

‘Number of people far exceeding the vaccines allotted’ 

When asked about the reasons behind people returning without getting the jab, Ajay Verma, incharge of community health centre in Barabanki’s Fatehpur block told Gaon Connection that the daily supply of vaccines gets used much before everybody who comes at the centre could get vaccinated.

“We get a supply of 500-600 vaccine vials for a day but almost thrice that number — about 1,500 villagers come to the centres to get the jab. We can’t do much about it as we are successfully meeting our targets but much more vaccines will be needed to ensure that all the people who are thronging the centres get the jab,” Verma told Gaon Connection.

“Earlier the villagers were getting vaccinated at their own villages but due to shortage of vaccines, presently only health centres like PHC (primary health centre) and CHC (community health centre) are inoculating people. There is indeed a vaccine shortage, not just in our block but across the state,” the official further informed.

Vaccination data of Barabanki for July 31.

From vaccine hesitancy to vaccine shortage

About 120 kilometres from the vaccination centre where Ramkhilwan stood in the queue for three days, the situation is no different in the Unnao district. 

At the Lochcha CHC in the district, more than 500 people gathered till 11 am while the vaccination capacity of the health centre is about 200-220 doses a day.

Suman Devi, a 28-year-old villager from a village situated eight kilometres from the CHC, visited the vaccination camp along with her infant daughter whom she held in her arms outside the health centre.

Also Read: 62% drop in COVID vaccination since free vaccination for 18-plus population kicked off on June 21, shows CoWIN data

“I spent ten rupees to come here on a tempo. I reached here at 9 am but it’s afternoon now, my turn hasn’t come yet. My child is getting agitated in the crowd and the heat, it’s difficult to calm her if she begins to cry,” she told Gaon Connection.

Vaccination data for Unnao.

“I don’t know much about vaccines. Everybody is getting it done, so I have also come here to get it,” she added.

After an awareness campaign launched during May-June to address vaccine hesitancy in the rural districts, people are now willing to get vaccinated but the sheer number of rural residents now coming to the centre has resulted in a major challenge for the administration to manage such numbers which exceed the capacity of these health centres.

Also Read: Two doses of vaccine successful in preventing 95% COVID19 deaths; vaccines effective against Delta variant: ICMR

“For each day, we have vaccine supplies to inoculate 200-220 persons but crowds numbering upto 450 people often reach our centre and it often results in as ruckus after we run out of supplies to vaccinate them,” Achalganj CHC incharge Amit Srivastava told Gaon Connection.

Meanwhile, having received the first dose of COVID19 vaccine on April 7, 55-year-old Saroj Trivedi told Gaon Connection that it is the second dose that she is struggling to get but the first jab was easily available.

“There were no crowds when I received the first dose of the vaccine. It was easily available as not many people were coming out to get it. I have been waiting here for more than six hours now but I haven’t been called for the jab. Many people are returning without getting vaccinated,” she said. 

It was reported in May that when the officials approached the villagers to get vaccinated, many of them jumped into the river to evade vaccination in the Barabanki district which is now reporting a surge in demand to get vaccinated.

Also Read: Third wave of COVID19 will not be as intense as second wave if no new virus strain emerges: ICMR

Meanwhile, the chief medical officer (CMO) of Unnao, Satyaprakash Singh told Gaon Connection, “We are receiving the COVID19 vaccines in limited quantities but people many times the available doses are flocking to the centres which is resulting in inconvenience. We are trying to encourage more people to book their slots online.”

So far, 48,217,391 vaccine jabs have been administered in Uttar Pradesh, with Barabanki recording 728,715 vaccinations and 581,281 doses administered in Unnao till date.

Written and edited by Pratyaksh Srivastava