In many cases, the workers have trekked for long distances only to find the residents away from their homes
Healthcare workers have been going the extra mile to administer COVID-19 vaccine to tribals in the Agency areas of Visakhapatnam district, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
With most of the tribal habitations lacking proper road connectivity, the health staff have been trekking across hills and crossing streams to organise vaccination camps in the hamlets. The health staff have also been organising camps at times, as tribals are not coming forward to get vaccinated due to lack of awareness and apprehensions surrounding the safety of the vaccine.
Recently, six health workers from Devarapalle mandal had travelled around 40 km through thick forests to reach a tribal village called Bongija in Ananthagiri mandal. Though there are 90 eligible tribals for vaccination in the village, none of the tribals came forward to get the jab out of fear.
“We had to conduct a door-to-door campaign to inform them that vaccines are safe and are the need of the hour. After one-and-a-half-hour wait, 10 women, some of them mothers with children below five years of age from the village, came forward. We vaccinated them and appealed to them to inform the rest of the villagers that they are absolutely fine after taking the jab. A week later, some more villagers came forward. Slowly, eligible tribals from neighbouring villages like Tangellabanda, Jagadalamamidi and a few others came forward to take the vaccine. It took several weeks to vaccinate six villages,” said Multi-purpose Health Assistant of Devarapalle, K. Govinda Rao.
The same team had trekked for about two-and-half-hours in a forest to reach Nakkalamamidi village, where they vaccinated 40 eligible persons a few weeks ago.
Similarly, two days ago, health supervisor K. Subrahmanyam and his team from Paderu had trekked 16 km to several interior villages of Kinchuru panchayat. However, they found that the villagers had gone to the agricultural fields and would not return till evening. The staff then proceeded to the farmlands and took up the vaccination drive in the fields itself. A total of 80 villagers were vaccinated.
According to the health department staff and ANMs, there are plenty of occasions when their teams had to trek for hours and return in vain without organising camps, after finding that the tribals had left for their daily work, despite appealing them to stay in the village for the programme. In several habitations, the health staff have been convincing and vaccinating the village heads or community leaders to motivate others.
Additional District Medical & Health Officer, Paderu, Dr. P. Leela Prasad, said that almost 67% of tribal habitations in the Agency do not have road connectivity. But still, the staff with the support of ANMs and others are taking up drives including door-to-door vaccination drives. He also said that several issues like lack of Aadhaar cards and internet connectivity are adding to their woes. In most of the cases, they are noting down the details and uploading them into the COWiN website after reaching the plains where there is internet connectivity.
Dr. Leela Prasad also said that the department has almost completed vaccination for the given target in the category of pregnant women and mothers with children below five years, and also health care workers and frontline workers. But the problem is with the people aged above 45 years, especially those from the PVTG (particularly vulnerable tribal group) category.
“Still, around 30% of people above 45 to 59 years of age need to be vaccinated. Due to lack of awareness, the PVTGs do not cooperate with us and refuse to take the jab despite several appeals,” he said.
Dr. Leela Prasad also said that they have listed the names of eligible persons who are yet to be vaccinated, and have instructed the staff to complete the vaccination at the earliest.
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