HYDERABAD: On July 1, when the Telangana government kick-started its vaccination drive for citizens above the age of 18, nearly three lakh vaccination slots opened up on the CoWin portal. The slots were fully booked in a matter of minutes in Hyderabad, but in the remote tribal pockets of Adilabad, like Jhari and Gajiguda, only a handful of people turned up at the vaccination centres.
Analysis of data on the CoWin dashboard shows that of the 10 districts recognised as scheduled areas, three, namely Adilabad, Asifabad and Nagarkurnool, have barely managed to vaccinate 10 per cent of their total population with one dose. The remaining — Mancherial, Kothagudem, Nirmal, Mahabubabad, Jangaon, Mulugu and Khammam — have vaccinated less than 20 per cent of their population. This is far lower than the State’s average of 32 per cent. Officials attribute the poor turnout to a confluence of factors, ranging from lack of awareness and superstition to poor access to sparsely available health facilities.
“Many tribals worship a local deity and believe that the deity alone can cure all diseases. We are, therefore, sensitising local leaders, Patels, who can spread awareness in tribal hamlets,” said Bhavesh Mishra, project officer at Integrated Tribal Development Agency-Utnoor. Lack of connectivity is another primary concern. “Over the last two months, we have visited nearly 40 tribal hamlets in the State, only to encounter the same issue: distance. If one has no access to private vehicles, it is impossible to reach the vaccination site,” said Sai Teja from Feed the Needy. “There is also a severe lack of manpower and resources. The region has been struggling with a dearth of health staffers and primary health centres (PHC) for many years now,” said a health official from Utnoor.