Getting the better of initial vaccine hesitancy, the health authorities have inoculated 73.5% of estimated adult population with at least the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine in 14 tribal districts of Odisha.
Replying to a query by Bhubaneswar MP, Aparajita Sarangi, the Union Minister of Tribal Affairs, Arjun Munda in a written reply informed the Lok Sabha that “certain myths and misinformation have been reported regarding COVID-19 vaccination drive which have been promptly addressed by the Central Government”.
Sarangi in her query sought to know “whether there was vaccine hesitancy or myths about it in the tribal people; if so, the steps taken to remedy the situation”.
“As per the information received from the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, as on 25th November 2021, a total of 1,00,68,104 people (73.5% coverage of estimated adult population) have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine in 14 tribal districts of Odisha”, union minister Munda told the House.
In order to raise awareness about safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines to address vaccine hesitancy and sustain vaccine confidence, a communication strategy is in place which is being implemented across all States and Union Territories (UTs) including Odisha.
Some key interventions as part of communication strategy include Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for general public and healthcare & frontline workers which have been developed & uploaded on the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare website.
Besides the media channels, radio jockeys, producers etc. have been oriented on correct information regarding COVID-19 vaccination; op-eds and articles by identified experts published to build vaccine confidence; dissemination of fact check videos by key experts to provide correct & factual information. The Central Government has advised States/Union Territories to disseminate clear, consistent, transparent and factual information to the general public to clear misconceptions and sustain vaccine confidence, the minister said.
All efforts have been made to ensure vaccination of beneficiaries, including tribal communities, some of which include registration through Common Service Centres, walk-in registration at COVID-19 vaccination centre, Near to Home Covid Vaccination Centres (NHCVC) for elderly & people with disabilities and Har Ghar Dastak vaccination campaign to identify and vaccinate missed beneficiaries for 1st dose and due beneficiaries for 2nd dose. The National COVID-19 Vaccination Program expects that eligible beneficiaries aged 18 years and above will be vaccinated by December 2021, the minister added.
In the initial period of vaccination drive, the ground-level health workers in Odisha had to contend with the vaccination hesitancy in remotest tribal pockets of the State. Disturbing reports of people fleeing the villages to dodge the COVID-19 vaccination had grabbed the spotlight then.
Rumours that vaccines could cause impotency and even could lead to death had gone overdrive. Both the virus infection and misinformation were on ascendancy. The healthcare workers had combated the pinch of obstinate tribal people’ hesitancy to get inoculated, said an official of State health department adding that hesitancy no more prevails in far-flung tribal-inhabited area.