Healthcare professionals working in remote locations such as Valparai are facing vaccine hesitancy as a major challenge in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic.
Residents of many tribal settlements have expressed their hesitancy in taking the vaccine due to various factors, including lack of awareness, they say.
At Nedungundram, one of the tribal settlements in the Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR), a few residents took their first jab recently.
One or two of them developed high temperature after taking the vaccine, which is observed as a normal reaction in many takers. However, this created a fear among other residents who later showed hesitancy to take the vaccine.
“We have observed vaccine hesitancy in many tribal settlements during fever surveillance visits. We do our best to educate them on the benefits of taking the vaccine,” says Babu Lakshman, Block Medical Officer (BMO), Valparai.
Daring terrain difficulties and heavy rains, Dr. Lakshman and his team visited several settlements in the Valparai region and conducted fever surveillance.
“Though these settlements are located in remote areas and forests, a few residents visit ration shops and towns. We have explained them these risks and to inform us if anyone develops symptoms of COVID-19,” he adds.
There are 17 tribal settlements in Coimbatore district limits of the ATR and majority of them are located deep inside the forests and Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) workers are maintaining regular contact with the residents.
Activist S. Thanraj from Ekta Parishad, Tamil Nadu, who works closely with tribal communities in ATR and Valparai region, feels that concerted efforts from various government departments were needed to empower the communities and ensure them easy access to healthcare and create awareness on issues such as vaccine hesitancy.
Karamadai is another block in Coimbatore district which is home to many tribal settlements.
Mallan, resident of a settlement close to Pilloor dam, says that many from the region were worried to take the vaccine after hearing that people develop fever, body pain and headache.
According to Karamadai BMO P. Sudhakar, residents of the settlements have started taking the vaccine through the awareness created by ASHA workers and Village Health Nurses (VHN).
“ASHA workers and VHNs track fever cases on a regular basis. If more than four or five fever cases are reported from a settlement, we conduct a fever survey and take necessary action,” he says.
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