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Vaccinators Trek to Remote Areas to Make Up for Slow Start as MP Sees Uptick in Covid-19 Shots

Screenshot from a video shared by Ratlam Collector that shows volunteers trekking to a small tribal settlement in Sailana block. (Twitter/@RatlamCollector)

Screenshot from a video shared by Ratlam Collector that shows volunteers trekking to a small tribal settlement in Sailana block. (Twitter/@RatlamCollector)

Districts collectors in Madhya Pradesh have been sharing videos of health officials wading through farm lands, navigating slushy roads and trekking mountains to reach far-flung beneficiaries.

Madhya Pradesh may have been a late bloomer when it comes to vaccinating its people against Covid-19, but the state’s health officials and volunteers have set an example in the last one month, pursing beneficiaries even in inaccessible areas.

On Thursday, Ratlam collector Kumar Purushottam shared a video of health services volunteers wading through crops in a farm and slushy roads to reach a small tribal settlement in Sailana block. This is the latest instance in a series of videos shared by the administration these past few weeks that show officials and volunteers navigating waterlogged areas and tough terrain to vaccinate even small groups of remote residents.

The state is now nearing 5.91 crore vaccinations, aiming to complete the first dose coverage for all by September-end and the complete two-dose schedule across the state by the year-end.

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On Wednesday, volunteers were seen wading through waterlogged roads to reach villagers in Khargone. The Friday before that, a team of health volunteers scaled a hillock covering 1.5 km on steep hill to vaccinate a group of 25 tribal people in the Tapri Bilawakho settlement in Tapri gram panchayat in Nasrullaganj.

Similarly, the ‘Mamta brigade’, comprising ASHA and anganwadi workers, are marching across rivers, hills and farms to vaccinate residents in far-flung and tribal-dominated Barwani district. Collector Shivraj Singh Verma shared a video of their efforts on Twitter, hoping it would inspire people to come forward for vaccinations.

In Narsinghpur, Collector Rohit Singh shared a similar tweet, saying vaccination teams had scaled steep hilly areas to reach locals in Talaiya, Badagaon and Kumbhikheda.

The zeal to vaccinate as many people as possible has also led to some unusual and worrying incidents, some of which ended up evoking light reactions on social media. A video from Bundelkhand had recently gone viral that purportedly showed a young man who feared needles being held by locals to be vaccinated. At Shivpuri last week, Sardar Singh, the husband of former Nohri sarpanch Ramshri Rawat, was given an ultimatum by his wife that he won’t be allowed back into their home if he did not get vaccinated. Singh did not return home that night and was taken to a vaccination centre the next day.

Another video went viral in recent days where a man and his 10 friends were offered Covid-19 vaccines in Muchgohan village in Betul. The group, however, demanded to see Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s vaccination certificate before taking the shot themselves. They agreed to be vaccinated only after health volunteers showed them media reports of Chouhan’s vaccination.

Madhya Pradesh is also leading the pack when it comes to vaccinations for pregnant women. As on September 22, the state has administered over 2.12 lakh doses to expecting mothers, including 1.89 lakh first doses. Tamil Nadu is at the second place with 2.10 lakh doses.

The state had gotten off to a slow start with vaccine hesitancy, particularly in tribal districts like Umaria, Dindori, Alirajpur, Jhabua, Shahdol, Anuppur and Mandla, proving to be a roadblock. But appropriate counselling and gradual increase in supplies sped up the vaccination drive in last few weeks, said a senior officer in the Department of Health on condition of anonymity.

Madhya Pradesh had recorded 28.99 lakh vaccinations on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s birthday on September 17 when a special campaign saw an India-wide record of 2.5 crore vaccine doses. The state, however, had fallen short of its original target of 32 lakh vaccines that day, with district officers blaming migratory population for missing the shots.

Commenting on the increased pace of vaccinations in the state, Dr Santosh Shukla, Director (Vaccinations), told News18.com that dose availability remains between 10-15 lakh of late. “Our dedicated teams are doing house visits, going to farms, hillocks, chaupals in villages and remote areas,” he said.

Asked about the problems vaccination teams are encountering, Shukla said migration has been a major issue since the outset. “People migrate and it poses a major problem in verification in almost every district. It’s a tough task when a person is verified for vaccination in their home town,” he said.

Shukla, however, added that MP is currently at the second spot among top 10 populated states in terms of vaccinations.

Medical education minister Vishwas Sarang has said that the state’s plans are to finish first dose coverage by September 26 and complete double vaccination by December-end.

Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who has been vocal in his concerns to avoid a third wave, said on Thursday that a mega campaign will be organised on September 27 to vaccinate eligible beneficiaries who haven’t received the first dose yet.

Indore was the first to achieve 100% vaccination of eligible population on August 31. The district had administered 28,08,212 first doses to reach the milestone. It was the first to achieve the target among cities that have 10 lakh plus population. It has administered 13.87 lakh second doses so far. Bhopal has administered first doses to 19.34 lakh residents and second doses to 9.39 lakh.

In rural sector, Jhabua’s Narsinghrunda village was the first in the state to administer both doses to eligible population by September 13. A village of 178, it had to inoculate 110 locals in the 18+ age group.​

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first published:September 23, 2021, 12:16 IST