NEW DELHI: The Centre on Thursday launched a campaign to ramp up COVID-19 vaccination among tribal people with focus on dispelling myths, misconceptions and fear about vaccines by involving traditional leaders and local influencers.
The Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation (TRIFED), under the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, will implement the campaign, which started from Bastar in Chhattisgarh and Mandla in Madhya Pradesh on Wednesday, in association with the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organisation (WHO).
According to officials, the campaign aims at creating awareness on vaccination among around 50 lakh tribals and forest dwellers across states.
Under the campaign, more than 50,000 villages in 309 districts will be covered.
Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda said the campaign presents an opportunity to build strong relationship with scheduled tribes.
"There are lot of myths and misconception regarding COVID-19 vaccination. This campaign focuses on removing these hindrances. This is the time we increase awareness about vaccination in view of a possible third wave," he said.
"We won't wave for third wave, but will built a protective shield around our people," Munda added.
The campaign focuses on busting myths and misconceptions like the vaccine is not meant for children and women and that a vaccinated person cannot be infected again.
"We need to send out the correct message that vaccination protects from severe diseases and death... Many people think vaccination reduces stamina which may have an affect on their livelihood or they will have to abstain from alcohol after taking the shot," an official said.
"Some people deny the existence of Covid and call it simple 'cold and cough'. Most villagers and daily wagers think they already have the immunity," he added.
Tribal people have more confidence in local faith healers and traditional leaders. So, these people will be involved to bust these myths, the official said.
As part of the outreach, TRIFED will create awareness using fertilisers outlet centres, haats and bazaars, milk collection points and Van Dhan Vikas Kendras, that add value to non-timber minor forest produce.
There will be special focus on high-resistant areas.
Local roll models and champions in the community will be used as influencers to convince community members.
Tribal folk formats and songs, especially those used on the occasions of birth, marriage and death, will be tapped. Pre-recorded messages will be used in local dialects and languages.