Updated: October 22, 2021 9:39:16 am
AS THE nation achieved the landmark of administering 100 crore Covid-19 vaccinations on Thursday, Jigna Kerasiya, a female health worker (FHW) at a primary health centre (PHC) in Gorewali village along the Indo-Pak border in Kutch went about her job without any fuss. But she is an unsung hero who played a key role in convincing locals, averse to any immunisation drive, to get the Covid jab.
Deservingly, her efforts were lauded by the district administration earlier this month.
Gorewali is located in Banni, one the largest grasslands of Asia, on the edge of the Great Rann of Kutch. The Gorewali PHC is around 78 km away from Bhuj, the Kutch district headquarters and is a village of maldharis or cattle-herders. The PHC in Bhuj has four sub-centres that together cover 18,700 people of which 8,000 are eligible for Covid-19 vaccination, health officers said. But the PHC has managed to vaccinate only 3,446 people, or 43 per cent, so far. Of this, however, the Gorewali sub-centre, which covers six villages and nine vandhs (settlements of maldharis) having a population of 4,600, accounts for 1,584 of vaccinated people — the highest among all the four sub-centres.
Health officers say the sub-centre’s target is to vaccinate 2,186 people, of which it has already achieved 72.46 per cent. In fact, Kerasiya has managed to vaccinate all eligible people in Gorewali and Hodko.
“My job is challenging because I work in an area where there are groups of people who resist any type of vaccination. It becomes even more challenging when one has to work in a milieu where men take all decisions on behalf of the women in their family. The women have no say at all in almost any matter whatsoever. But for the one with determination and resolve, no task is too tough and we are making honest efforts,” 23-year-old Kerasiya says, adding, “We have managed to vaccinate a good number of females. The percentage of females among those vaccinated so far is around 40 per cent.” Kerasiya is a native of Jikadi on the edge of Banni in Bhuj. The daughter of a casual worker and eldest among three siblings, she joined the government service two years ago after completing a two-year certificate course in nursing.
The FHW credits her team, especially ASHA (accredited social health activist) for her success. “Vaccinating people in such a large number takes a team effort. ASHA workers are key in persuading people to get Covid-19 jabs as they are the ones who live among them. We are taking the help of sarpanches, talaties (village revenue clerk) and community leaders to convince people to get vaccinated. We have held meetings in villages and are going door-to-door to enlist people’s cooperation in the vaccination drive,” says Kerasiya.
However, the biggest challenge is to quell rumours, the FHW says. “There were rumours that the vaccine causes death within two years after one takes it. Another misinformation is that Covid-19 (vaccine) causes cancer. But I tell people that I have taken two doses of the same vaccine and hale and hearty. Same is the case with the village sarpanch and talatis. The only way we can secure people’s cooperation in this vaccination drive persuasion. One can’t force people to get jabs,” Kerasiya says.
The FHW works in Gorewali during the weekdays and visits her parents on Sundays. Gorewali PHC even conducted a vaccination session at night in Dhordo, the village known for Rann Utsav — the annual desert carnival. Her next challenge is to convince people in Sadai village where people are reluctant to take the vaccine.
“Her communication skills are good and is good at persuading. She has done good work even while on non-Covid duty,” says Dr Jitendra Noriya, medical officer of Gorewali PHC.
Overall, 14 lakh people, or 93 per cent, of the targeted population, have been administered the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine and six lakh of them have been fully vaccinated. “You would appreciate that the geographical area of Kutch is larger than states like Kerala and Haryana. Our teams are working hard, day and night, in tandem to ensure that we vaccinate all eligible persons in the district. Our drivers have driven non-stop to go to Vadodara to fetch the vaccines,” Dr Janak Madhak, chief district health officer of Kutch says.
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