Tribes generally have a tendency to exhibit vaccine hesitancy. “Initially there was a lukewarm response. But, gradually they have begun to open up for vaccination following awareness drives. It may be difficult to control, if the virus spreads out among this close knit tribal community. Hence, we have decided to vaccinate them on a priority basis,” said Supriya Sahu, principal secretary and Chief Executive Officer, INDCOSERVE and The Nilgiris district monitoring officer.
The district has a total tribe’s population of 27,032, including Todas, Paniyas, Kotas, Kattunayakans, Kurumbas and Irulas. Of them, 8,779 are above the age of 45 years while 12,656 people are in the age of 18 to 44 years. Though people above 45 are prioritised, the vaccination drive even covers anyone above 18 years among the tribal population.
“Three mobile teams, each headed by a health inspector have been designated to vaccinate the tribal people at their doorstep as they may be hesitant to come to the hospital. The number of mobile teams will be increased based on necessity. Already, a few NGO’s have been roped in to sensitize the tribal community and bust their myths on vaccination. Their volunteers have begun to reach out over the last few days and they take care of the entire processes, including registration for vaccination,” she added.
Vaccine acceptability is low among tribal people because of their lack of awareness, minimum education standards and less information. By and large, the tribal communities remain unscathed by the pandemic. “Yet, infections have been reported in one or two tribal habitations. A few were infected in Choladi village and a large group of people were infected in another interior village. Therefore, even tribals are getting exposed to the virus and the only way out is to shield themselves by getting vaccinated,” Supriya Sahu said.