Up on the hills, vaccines go begging

The medical officer and staff nurse wait for people at the Top Sengattupatti Primary Healthcare Centre to administer the COVID-19 vaccination shot.   | Photo Credit: M. SRINATH

While people at Uppiliyapuram Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC) on the foothills of Pachamalai wait for days to get a jab of the COVID-19 vaccination, the empty PHC at Top Sengaattupatti on the hills presents a picture in stark contrast. Health workers are having a tough time due to vaccination hesitancy among tribal people.

In March, officials at Top Sengatupatti Additional PHC, attached to the Uppiliyapuram PHC, began setting up COVID-19 vaccination camps to vaccinate 4,016 people who reside in 16 villages attached to Tiruchi district. In the four-month-period, they have been able to vaccinate only about 1,000 people of whom a majority were required to get the shot as per norms at their workplace.

Those who work in agricultural lands in the villages ran and hid in the forests on learning about the visit of a medical team to vaccinate them. “We are all hale and healthy. A staff nurse at the PHC herself fell ill for a week when she took the vaccine. We will not be able to work and when we do not work, we do not get paid. For us, ensuring food to eat every day is the priority,” said R. Jyothi, an agricultural labourer.

Sampath Kumar, Medical Officer in charge at the PHC, said that the department had organised an event in which Collector S. Sivarasu motivated people to get themselves vaccinated. “The whole village gathered to listen to the Collector, but only 19 people took the shot,” he said.

While the first wave of COVID-19 did not cause any noticeable impact, the second wave saw at least 30 people testing positive, but none were in a serious condition. “This could also be a factor causing their hesitancy. Those who tested positive were home quarantined or admitted to Covid Care Centres; none of them needed hospitalisation,” a health worker said.

Dr. Sampath and his team also tried door-to-door awareness campaigns, laying emphasis on the importance of inoculation, but they were met with resistance and in some cases even anger. “A shepherd asked if we will take care of his cattle, while some even sought to give us innovative ideas for preventing COVID-19 without vaccination,” he said.

“A small number of people who travel to Uppiliyapuram or Thuraiyur for work, and some pregnant women did take the jab, but, by and large, the vaccine hesitancy continues,” he said.

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2021 1:38:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/up-on-the-hills-not-many-takers-for-vaccine-among-tribal-people/article35494917.ece

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