Gujarat has managed to fully vaccinate only thirty-five percent of its nine million tribal population which is half the rate of vaccination coverage of the state.
Mitesh Vasava | TwoCircles.net
GUJARAT – Gujarat has vaccinated over seventy percent of its population with both the doses and over ninety-three percent with at least one dose. But the vaccination program in its tribal regions lags behind substantially.
The coverage of vaccination in Adivasi parts of the state is almost half of the overall vaccination in other parts of the state. Gujarat has managed to fully vaccinate only thirty-five percent of its tribal population which is half the rate of vaccination coverage of the state. The tribal population covered with at least one dose is only sixty-five percent of the eligible population which is almost 28% less than the statewide average coverage. With over nine million Adivasis constitute almost fifteen percent of the population of Gujarat. The Dang district is the lowest-performing district in Gujarat in Covid-19 vaccination.
Government claimed better vaccination in Tribal areas in June
A recent government survey pointed out that of the forty-eight districts where first dose coverage is less than fifty percent, half are home to large tribal populations.
Interestingly, going by the government claims made in the Supreme Court the vaccination program in tribal areas of the country was going great in June.
The rate of vaccination in tribal areas of the country was “better” than the national average, the Narendra Modi government claimed in the Supreme Court in June.
According to the health ministry affidavit filed in the apex court, more walk-in vaccinations were happening in tribal districts as compared to the national average.
“Vaccination per million population in tribal coverage is better than the national average as of June 23. Ninety-seven out of 176 tribal districts are performing better than the all-India vaccination coverage,” the Ministry had informed the court.
Govt failed to counter hoax, misinformation about Covid
Tribal activists and health professionals working in the tribal region told TwoCircles.net that a large Adivasi population remains outside the coverage of the vaccination program due to scarce medical infrastructure, low vaccination supply and lack of awareness about the consequences of the pandemic. Hoaxes and myths about Covid-19 vaccinations abound in the tribal population adversely affecting their readiness to get vaccinated.
Social worker Josna Ben said that the Covid-19 vaccination in the Adivasi region has been low right from the start of the vaccination program.
“Misinformation, rumours, hoaxes were already prevalent in the rural regions about Covid-19 which made vaccination drive slow. The local officials supervising the vaccination drive failed to counter that through its awareness programs,” she said.
She alleged that the government officials failed to warn the Adivasi population about Covid and its devastating effects. She also alleged that government figures of vaccination in the Adivasi region don’t reflect the reality on the ground because they are fake. The government was busy in image management when they had to build feasible medical infrastructure and do more awareness programs to ensure better implementation of the vaccination program, she added.
“A large number of tribal population is not coming forward for the vaccination drive. So the local health officials are doing fake registration and issuing fake certificates, to achieve targeted vaccination goals,” she alleged. Though the government officials rejected her allegation as baseless and maintained that over sixty-five percent of the tribal population has been partially vaccinated.
She said that the larger problem is that the government doesn’t care about the Adivasi people because it has no accountability towards them.
Move beyond hoardings and cancel tribals one-on-one
Josna Ben argued that at this stage the government needed to change its strategy and move beyond hoarding and advertisements.
Local health officials need to be told to draw a list of unvaccinated people and counsel them one-on-one like child immunisation programs used to be implemented.
“The government has to move beyond hoardings to counsel tribals on benefits of vaccination. We have to take it very seriously and that is why adopting a better strategy like going to people’s doorsteps and counselling them,” she argued.
Mitesh Vasava is a SEED-Fellow with TwoCircles.net.