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India’s Vaccinators, Kashmir: ‘The younger age group was the toughest to convince’

“With the amount of misinformation on Covid-19 online, the generation that consumes this media was the toughest to convince,” Ishfaq Shabir said.

Written by Naveed Iqbal | Srinagar |
Updated: October 21, 2021 8:55:02 pm
Ishfaq Shabir on a Covid-19 vaccination drive.

Ishfaq Shabir, 25, Baramulla, Kashmir

Over the last two years, Ishfaq Shabir has been working as the main nurse in Boniyar block of Kashmir’s Baramulla district. Everyday, he would pick up the ice box and travel to villages right at the Line of Control. Away from the city of Srinagar and its power centres, he said, resistance to vaccines was high.
The 25-year-old health worker said when vaccination for the 18-44 age group was opened, dealing with the younger generation was a tougher task than any uphill trek in the villages.

“With the amount of misinformation on Covid-19 online, the generation that consumes this media was the toughest to convince,” he said. Camps could not be held given the difficulty of the terrain. So, the team administered door-to-door vaccination to over 60 per cent of the population of this block. Boniyar block has about 32,500 people in the 18-44 age group. Shabir said most people in this age group would also not be present for vaccination when health staff reached the villages, as they would be out on work. “Then we decided to carry out door-to-door vaccinations after 4 o’clock when most people would be home,” he said.

Camps could not be held given the difficulty of the terrain.

“The team would sometimes wait till 9 pm, for people to return from work and even then, several times, people refused,” he added.

Then there was the difficulty of uploading vaccination data due to patchy networks.

Shabir said that the one thing that helped dispel people’s apprehensions was the fact that health workers were the first to take vaccines themselves. “I told people that I am their age and I have taken the vaccine and I am fine. That was what convinced them the most that it was okay,” he said.

All this effort, though, has borne fruit — the block has achieved 100 per cent vaccination.

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