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India’s Vaccinators, Karnataka: ‘Some of them ran away into forests after seeing us’

A drive through the dense forests of Karnataka’s Kodagu district and a long walk through the slushy terrain thereafter to reach scattered tribal settlements in Virajpet taluk has been a challenging act for Medical Officer Dr Shivappa S Gotyal and his team.

Written by Ralph Alex Arakal | Bengaluru |
Updated: October 21, 2021 9:01:24 pm
Medical Officer Dr Shivappa S Gotyal

Dr Shivappa S Gotyal (51), Medical Officer, Channayanakote, Kodagu, Karnataka

A drive through the dense forests of Karnataka’s Kodagu district and a long walk through the slushy terrain thereafter to reach scattered tribal settlements in Virajpet taluk has been a challenging act for Medical Officer Dr Shivappa S Gotyal and his team of vaccinators in the past few months.

“Each time we visited these areas, our team was focussed on our goal to convince maximum dwellers to take the Covid-19 vaccine amid fears of wild animals intruding these forest areas,” 51-year-old Gotyal recounts.

The team comprising ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) workers, ANMs (Auxiliary Nurse Midwives) and nurses had to make multiple trips to six tribal villages — Diddalli, Chennangi, Daiyyadadlu, Chottepara, Basavanahalli, and Kesuvinakere — in the hilly district to ensure awareness and implementation of the vaccination drive to the population.

“While most of them had resistance against vaccine doses, some even ran away into the forests when they saw our staff dressed in white and pink approaching. In some instances, we had to wait for hours near their settlements for them to return and to begin a conversation,” Dr Gotyal, the medical officer at Channayanakote public healthcare centre, said.

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However, the team began tasting success in their pursuit after the second or third visit when they took local leaders and members of the gram panchayat along with them after getting them inoculated. “We started tagging along those who were already vaccinated and made them describe how the process was harmless to all. With the added efforts of the gram panchayat task force, local police constables, community representatives, staff from the jurisdictional tribal office and Anganwadi teachers, more people were convinced to take the jab,” he said.

As per statistics issued by the Taluk Health Office in Virajpet, the team has achieved 98.2 per cent coverage of the total population in these villages as on October 20. “As many as 726 of the total 739 people who are aged 18 and above in these villages have been inoculated with at least one dose so far, while 348 (47 per cent) of them are fully vaccinated,” the medical officer said.

Even as India crossed the one million Covid vaccine dose milestone Thursday, Dr Gotyal and his team were busy devising new strategies to convince the remaining 13 people to take the vaccine shots. “We are now trying new methods to begin a conversation with each of them and are in a bid to get more acquainted with the remaining 13 people in these six villages by visiting them frequently,” he said, with hope to achieve 100 per cent coverage at the earliest.

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