In the tribal hinterlands of Rajasthan, the vaccination rate against COVID has been low. The state government has initiated several measures to persuade the "movable middle" population at the tribal hinterlands to go for free vaccination that started in the country on June 21.
So far, the state has vaccinated 78.3 per cent of its population, reported The Indian Express. However, the drive has not been so successful in the tribal districts of Dungarpur, Pratapgarh and Udaipur where coverage for the 45 plus category is the lowest. In Udaipur it is 63.9 per cent, in Dungarpur it is 62.7 per cent and in Pratapgarh it is 59.3 per cent.
Recently, a tribal youth at a village in Udaipur waved a sickle at a booth-level officer, questioning him on deaths due to vaccination. The officer tried to dismiss the youth's fears by saying that those were just rumours.
Free Ration Kits Distributed
In Udaipur's Jhadol block, where the vaccine coverage is 34 per cent, the Sub Divisonal Magistrate distributed 2, 000 free ration kits to influence the population to come and take the jab. The free ration kits were sourced from tribal hostels that remained shut due to the pandemic and include rice, dal, puffed rice, flour, and oil, said the SDM.
A major problem in vaccinating the population in these hinterlands is convincing the tribal population, who hold on to their traditional values, to get the jab. A government teacher in Madri panchayat said that in some instances, in order to assure the population, he also has to sometimes promise them 'mautana' (compensation on death).
Another point of contact for officials are ration shops. "Here, the village population is scattered and each phalla (the smallest unit in a village) has 10-15 households… At ration shops, our booth-level officers cross-check people vaccinated against electoral rolls. If they haven't got the shot, our officials persuade them," said District Magistrate Chetan Deora. The administration also provides government vehicles to take people to the nearest centres and bring them back.
Different Approaches To Vaccination
At the Mavli block of the district, a top-down approach has been adopted. SDM Mayanak Manish said that their focus is to vaccinate sarpanchs and panchs. According to him, almost all sarpanchs have been covered. He further added that even though their word may not be taken seriously by villagers, sarpanchs can present this case more convincingly to them.
In Kotra block the vaccine coverage at 6 per cent is the lowest. And the administration is struggling to push up the numbers.
"We are doing our best. We have formed small teams to cover all villages. Bhupas have been contacted. On Saturdays and Sundays, we participate in their pujas to build trust," said SDM Sadhuram Jat.
Dr Ashok Aditya, the district nodal official for vaccination, has attributed rumours against vaccines for the prevalent fears. One of the ways they are trying to counter it is through videos of vaccinated people.
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