CHHATTISGARH: The Covid-19 vaccination drive officially began in India on January 16. The overall pace of vaccination has been slow and Chhattisgarh is no exception. But the case of Raigarh district of the state is different. An action plan enabled it to accomplish 100% first-dose vaccination of all eligible adults last week.
Raigarh, too, struggled with a shortage of vaccine supply, but it found ways to achieve success on the vaccination front. District Collector Bhim Singh rolled out practical operational planning that he routinely supervised.
Team spirit among those involved was the keyword. The results came in by and by: people’s trust in the field officers grew, myths about the vaccination were countered with facts and effective monitoring quickened the pace of vaccination.
Raigarh accomplished the target — it has 10.62 lakh eligible adults, which is over 65% of the total district population — of getting the first jab done across nine development blocks.
“The district had earlier achieved 100 per cent vaccination of those aged above 45years by March 30, giving our team immense confidence,” said Singh.
“Well done!” was the prompt reaction of Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, who says other districts too should replicate the Raigarh model of vaccination.
The district administration initially focused on securing the confidence of the people. Myths related to the vaccine on infertility and vulnerability to other diseases were busted.
There were instances when some people simply ran away from vaccinators. Vaccine hesitancy was effectively dealt with awareness campaigns.
The administration had to cope with low net connectivity in far-flung areas, unforeseen technical troubles in software and irregular supply of the vaccines.
Mobile vaccination units left no inhospitable terrain unattended in blocks where Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups and other tribes with low literacy live.
The health staff had to trek uphill for hours to reach inaccessible destinations. “These villages are not connected by roads. We persuaded tribal people for vaccination,” recalls Arun Mahant, a health worker.
“Around 70% of the district population lives in rural areas. One-third of them are tribals and 15% Scheduled Caste. So tackling misinformation among them was a huge task,” said the District Collector.
Since the launch of the vaccination drive, the district has led the state. The beneficiaries were usually identified through the voter list.
“Segments of the population were prioritized as senior citizens, high-risk categories, rural and urban. As we maintained an expeditious vaccination drive, prompt support from chief secretary and health secretary helped us in a big way to overcome the short supply of the vaccines,” said the Collector.
For winning over the people for vaccination, the Raigarh district chalked out the information-education-communication campaign taking evidence from countries like the UK, the US and Israel where fresh cases and casualties saw 10-12 times drop after three months of vaccination.
“We told the people through various modes about research findings and convinced them about the safety and benefits of vaccination. The myths were dispelled,” he said.
“Extensive interactive sessions were held with sarpanchs of village panchayats and corporators of municipalities where disinclination to vaccination remained high amid the lack of information in the community. We traced the reasons for the poor show and resolved them. Coordination among the department and public participation enabled achieving the target,” said Ravi Mittal, CEO Zila Panchayat, who planned the daily data schedule with realtime monitoring.
The questions revolving around misconceptions were invited and awareness was created among the people.
Free bus service was made available both in rural and urban areas to enable the beneficiaries to reach the vaccination centres.
Besides creating exclusive vaccination booths for women and the disabled, the administration resorted to door-to-door vaccination. The rate of vaccination was updated every two hours just like the election results. The daily routine continued till 8 pm.
“Officials at district, block and tehsil levels were deployed in the mega campaign in which 1.5 lakh people got inoculated on a single day of June 26,” said the Collector.
One good thing that emerged was the competitive spirit among officials of different sectors to deliver their best in achieving the goals.
Asha Bada, a vaccinator, said her team had to stay at Borla Jharia village located in an inhospitable terrain and the road leading to it was cut off due to heavy rains.