By Vrinda Lobo
From the start of the vaccination drive big blunders were made by the central government resulting in a very slow process, lack of vaccines, price conflicts and unequal distribution of the jab. Chances of urban Indians to get their COVID-19 jab are much higher than for people in the rural areas. Despite all efforts from rural health workers, India’s villages are left behind in the vaccination drive.
Lack of planning and implementation by the states and central government, insufficient resources for rural health workers and digitization of the vaccine rollout lead to the slow outcome of vaccination drive in the rural areas, were many can’t afford a smartphone, are digital illiterate or unable to read and write.
Rumors and myths about the vaccination in the rural districts add to the list of problems. There is a general mistrust in the government and its health institutions in the rural areas. Amid the second wave many COVID-19 infected villagers turned to untrained local ‘health workers’ for treatment instead of getting admitted in government ran hospitals.
There is also a rising resistance against the life-saving COVID-19 vaccine. People fear side effects or that they might die from the jab. Some even believe the vaccination drive is a plot by the government to kill people.
According to doctors and rural health workers COVID-19 Information centres are needed across rural districts and transportation to the vaccination centres should be provided by the government.
Today the Union Minister for Minority, Abbas Naqvi announced a nationwide awareness campaign “JaanHai To JahaanHai” in the rural districts, launched on June 21. It is meant to create awareness in remote areas and to crush rumors regarding the COVID-19 vaccination.
NGOs, Women Self Help Groups, Socio-Educational Organisations and the Ministry of Minority Affairs in a combined effort will initiate the awareness campaign. It will be launched in Rampur District in Uttar Pradesh and carried out across India. Street plays will be organized and prominent social, religious, cultural, educational leaders and personalities from television will participate and create awareness.
Naqvi praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for leading the world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination drive, saying India’s vaccination drive is ahead of most countries with better resources. He added that Indian society and central government worked united to defeat COVID-19 and the country has overcome the crisis.
Well, the ground reality is different, and it is time for Mr. Naqvi and other Ministers to wake up. COVID-19 is not yet defeated, which is still a long way ahead with a third wave on its way. Modi’s vaccination drive has been ridiculed and criticized national and internationally, asking how the “pharmacy of the world” could end up with so few vaccines for itself.
If the central government had worked together with states, society and others with responsibility and realistically, lives of thousands could have been saved, and the vaccination roll out would have been smooth and more efficient.
More than awareness campaigns, the rural areas need vaccination centers which are easily accessible, with free vaccines available and walk in vaccination without digital registration.