TIRUCHY: When Dr Sampath along with his hospital staff visited the Sembur village in the Pachamalai hills on May 17, he was greeted to an unlikely sight. Anticipating that the medical team had arrived to their village for conducting a fever camp, the people of the tribal village deserted their home and went into fields as they feared their arrival would land them in hospitals.
With the second wave of coronavirus recording positive cases at an alarming rate, the various government departments led by the health department are working round-the-clock to control the curb across the state. However, a similar fight in the 16 tribal villages in Pachamalai looks very far-fetched, as the health officials despite several attempts are struggling to assemble tribal villagers for fever camps, vaccination drives and health check-ups.
The 16 villages have an overall population of above 4,000 people out of which over 800 belong to the 45+ age category. In the last few weeks, despite detecting as many as 85 positive cases in these villages, the health department has managed to collect only 170 odd samples and vaccinate 225 people till now overall.
"We are taking all efforts to create awareness and curb the spread. But much of those efforts have been not very productive as they are reluctant to get tested or vaccinate themselves. We are continuously insisting they be tested if any symptoms are found, but they are not even coming forward for medical attention until the situation becomes dire," said Dr Sampath Kumar, working at the Top Sengattupatti primary health center atop of the Pachamalai hill.
Dr Sampath also added that, due to this hesitancy from the people, the daily visitors for out-patients has also reduced from having upto 60 patients each day to around 20 currently.
In the last two weeks, the health department conducted two vaccination drives at various villages respectively. In the vaccination camp held for 45+age category only 200 people were able to be vaccinated and in the 18-44 age category, they were able to vaccinate 25 people despite having 300 vials in their hands.
"As the villagers were not ready to come for camps, we decided to do it even door-to-door. But, we were not able to convince them and people started going into the fields anticipating our visit. So, despite having additional vials, we returned the vaccine back to the health department after we could not vaccinate them," said a health department worker who visited the houses for vaccination.
According to health workers, a few of the major reasons cited by the public for refusing to take tests or vaccines has been fear of death, side-effects and loss of livelihood if they test positive.
Apart from health department officials, the local body representatives are also attempting to spread awareness by even making thandora announcements about the medical camps and vaccination drives every other day to create awareness about the situation and importance of taking vaccines.
K Banumathu, president of the Thenpuranadu panchayat said, " We are making thandora announcements in each village and telling them to come forward for taking vaccines. However, the response has been very poor and they are very scared about it. We are trying our best and we request the revenue department and the district administration to intervenue and conduct mass camps to prevent the tribal villages from becoming a major hotspot."
When contacted District Collector S Sivarasu regarding the issue, he said, " The grievances has to my knowledge. I will personally visit these villages and take stock of the situation. Efforts will be taken to control the spread of the virus and vaccinate as many people as we can."