Healthcare workers brave rough weather to deliver vaccine in tribal hamlets

Villagers informed in advance of the vaccination drive

Healthcare workers in Gudalur and Pandalur taluks are toiling long hours to vaccinate the tribal population, braving inclement weather and walking to distant villages, to ensure that the entire population is vaccinated by the end of the month.

Recently, a photo of a woman healthcare worker administering the COVID-19 vaccine to an elderly Paniya tribal woman after sunset began circulating on mobile messaging applications.

The picture was indicative of the efforts being taken to ensure full vaccine coverage in the two taluks, said Block Medical Officer (Gudalur), G. Kathiravan. “Initially, we were finding it extremely difficult to convince tribal communities to come forward and get vaccinated. With the help of local NGOs and outreach programmes, we have managed to get most community members onboard with the vaccination programme,” he said.

The Health Department was informing villagers beforehand of the vaccination drive, so that they stayed at home for the vaccine.

One healthcare worker, who has been administering vaccines to tribal communities around Pandalur, said that people were initially reluctant to get vaccinated. “Even now, there is a certain amount of reluctance, but people see us every day, going to each village despite rain, and sometimes having to walk to these hamlets if the roads are damaged. So people see how hard we are working and are more ready to come forward to get vaccinated,” she said.

“This is what happened with the picture. We had received 500 doses of vaccines which had to be administered in ten villages on the same day, as people were awaiting the medical teams. So our nurses and healthcare staff administered vaccines to villagers till late at night,” said Mr. Kathiravan.

The district administration along with the health department and local NGOs have been working over the last few weeks to try and addressing vaccine hesitancy among communities, and has largely been successful. According to officials, out of 17,685 tribals in Gudalur and Pandalur taluks, around 8,000 tribals have already been administered the vaccine, especially over the last couple of weeks.

“In a single day, we managed to administer 3,175 vaccines, and our focus remains on vaccinating all plantation workers and tribals in the region,” said a health official.

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