The Nilgiris district administration has worked out an action-plan to get the adivasi population in the district vaccinated against COVID-19.
In order to achieve this, officials have come up with a comprehensive plan to overcome vaccine hesitancy among the communities.
According to officials, there are a total of 27,032 adivasis from Toda, Kota, Paniya, Kattunayakan, Kurumba and Irula tribes in the Nilgiris, out of whom 8,779 people are more than 45-year-old while 12,656 people are adults between the ages of 14 and 44.
Monitoring Officer for the Nilgiris district Supriya Sahu said that a plan has been prepared to vaccinate all members of the adivasi communities in the coming weeks.
However, vaccine hesitancy among adivasi communities remains an issue that needs to be addressed. On Thursday, Nilgiris District Collector J. Innocent Divya visited adivasi communities surrounding the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) to convince them to take the vaccine, after residents fled into the surrounding forests when health officials visited their villages to vaccinate them recently.
The Collector, along with the monitoring officer for the district, reached out to members of various NGOs who have been working with the communities, including Tarun Chhabra from the Toda Nalavaaazhvu Sangam, Stan Thekaekara, founder of ACCORD – Action for Community Organisation, Rehabilitation and Development, and M. Alwas, from the Nilgiri Adivasi Welfare Association (NAWA).
The grassroots NGOs have volunteers convincing community members to take the jab, and are working alongside other members of the district administration, including health department officials.
“We felt that adivasi communities should not be asked to visit their local PHCs or hospitals, as this might make them even more hesitant to take the vaccine, so we are taking the vaccines to them in their own villages,” said Ms. Sahu, who said that with the help of volunteers, adivasi communities are being convinced to take the vaccine.
In Gudalur and Pandalur, vaccine hesitancy is high due to the spread of misleading videos through mobile messaging applications that people taking the vaccine were developing complications.
Stan Thekaekara said that they are countering these misleading videos by recording videos of community members taking the vaccine. “The videos have community members who have taken the jab speaking of their experiences, and are an attempt to convince more members to come forward to take the vaccine,” said Mr. Thekaekara.
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