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Mission vaccinate in full force to immunize rural India against coronavirus

INTERNATIONAL DESK: Repeatedly testing the limits and patience not just of individuals but the medical infrastructure too, the pandemic has challenged India’s crisis management capabilities to an extent that has never been seen in the past.

Reeling against all odds, despite the humongous population and high density in large parts of India, the nation managed to lead a largely successful drive against the initial wave of COVID-19.

Though there were some human casualties and damage to the Indian economic structure, largely the Indian mantra of ‘Testing, Tracing and Treatment’ did not significantly alter the lives of people who were exposed to this virus which is alleged to have originated in China.

However, as soon as India began relaxing the strict measures enforced earlier and a period of lesser cases and steady recovery set in, the deadly COVID-19 virus showed its virulent form and spread throughout the country in the form of the Delta variant.

Due to this dangerous variant, there were higher casualties in the second wave with a large number of individuals experiencing symptoms and subsequently dying, causing tremendous anxiety in the collective psyche of people.

To counter this ever-growing threat, the Indian ruling dispensation began focusing on organizing the largest vaccination program in the world in order to vaccinate all of India’s eligible population in the shortest possible time period. The results became apparent as the number of infections gradually declined and the seriousness of those infected also reduced with an increase in the number of vaccinations.

The second wave of COVID-19 hit rural India hard. In May, 53% of all new cases were being reported from the country’s hinterlands and accounted for every second death from the virus. The only option to put an end to the pandemic is to vaccinate all eligible citizens. While in cities there is awareness and availability of vaccines, in our rural communities the reality is very different.

According to The Hindu newspaper, by mid-May, 30.3% of India’s urban population had received at least one dose of the vaccine compared to just 12.7% in rural areas. There are multiple factors like lack of access, digital illiteracy, vaccine hesitancy due to misinformation and rumors etc., that have led to a slower and unequal rollout of vaccination in rural India.

To accelerate the vaccination process in rural communities, GiveIndia is launching Mission Vaccination For All. This mission will not only help rural India get quicker and easier access to the vaccines, it will also help create awareness by busting myths and misinformation.

GiveIndia will partner with state governments and local bodies for training of nurses, paramedics, ASHA [‘Accredited Social Health Activists’] workers, and community health workers. They will help bridge the digital divide and facilitate last mile delivery in rural areas especially in aspirational districts.

Despite the gradual start and the jumpstart that the pharmaceutical companies of the US already possessed, India overtook USA in the number of doses administered. In fact, while USA took about 200 days to vaccinate 33.2 crores, India achieved the same target within a span of 165 days.

Another important feat worth mentioning is that a record 86 lakh individuals were vaccinated on the first day of the launch of free vaccines for people above the age of 18 years. The eagerness on the part of the government as well as the sustained enthusiasm of the citizens helped ensure that vaccination continued at a rapid pace in different regions of the country.

Surpassing all metropolitan cities and towns that are far more developed, it was the village of Wayan in Jammu & Kashmir that became the first village in India to achieve a target of 100% immunization.

Along with similar other remote villages in the state of Nagaland, these places have now set a benchmark for immunization by achieving their target months ahead of the designated schedule. While the citizens are aware and in most cases are seen to be waiting for vaccines to be made available to them,

There have also been instances where villagers were extremely reluctant and skeptical about the entire process of vaccination itself. In such cases, the vote of confidence from and efforts to spread awareness by Village leaders and officials aided in ramping up the process and ensuring maximum people are benefitted from it.

Further, in areas that are inaccessible and belong to the distant corners of the country, a door-to-door service was initiated to ensure complete vaccination. In recent times, with newer variants in the fray and advanced research gathering momentum, the pace of vaccination is expected to increase.

With constant awareness drives in place and sustained efforts to vaccinate as many people as possible; one can only hope that newer vaccine candidates emerge successful and accelerate India’s vaccination campaign further. — Agencies