June 3, 2021 6:26:48 pm
A few welfare organisations have come together to hold a lucky draw for people who get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus in Kovalam, a fishing hamlet located on the East Coast Road, just outside Chennai in Tamil Nadu. Aiming to make the village a “Covid-19 free zone”, the organisers are offering winners a range of items, including free biryani, daily recharge coupons, a gold chain, two-wheeler, refrigerator, washing machine or a mobile phone.
The drive has been organised by local NGO STS Foundation and funded by CN Ramadas Champions Development Trust and Chiraj.
After receiving permission from the Chengalpattu district administration, the vaccination drive was launched on May 29 at Bruno Palace Marriage Hall, and the first beneficiaries were Susila (88) and Subramani (91), the oldest couple in the village who are called paati (grandmother) and thatha (grandfather) by locals.
There are at least five healthcare workers from Kelambakkam primary healthcare centre administering the doses to residents. The drive is currently being held from 10 am to 2 pm, but organisers want to extend the timings depending on the supply of vaccines.
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Volunteers who arranged the drive said they want to remove apprehensions about vaccination in the village, and create a “festival-like atmosphere” to encourage more people to get jabbed.
The drive seems to be picking up pace; 98 people were vaccinated against Covid-19 in the last three months, while 345 received their shots in the last three days and 838 more have registered for the jab. Kovalam is home to about 16,000 people, of which around 6,400 fall in the 18-44 age group category.
Speaking to IndianExpress.com, Sundar, a trustee of the 22-member STS Foundation, said, “During the first wave of the pandemic, we distributed essential commodities like provisions and medicines free of cost to residents. In the second wave, we offered people amenities like ambulances and oxygen concentrators.
“Now, we want Kovalam to become a model village for vaccination. Our aim is to set up similar camps in at least 50 other villages across Tamil Nadu.”
Girish Ramdas, trustee of the non-profit CN Ramdas Champions Development Trust, said they aim to administer the first dose to everyone in the village in the next 45 days. He said the exercise to inoculate everyone in the village will cost about Rs 50 lakh excluding the cost of vaccines.
The funds have been raised by Ramdas and Dr Rajeev Fernando who runs NGO Chirag from alumni of the 1992 batch of Don Bosco School.
Ramdas said, “Two weeks ago, we created a 15-bed free Covid-19 care Centre in Velachery. Dr Fernando flew from the US to set up the care from scratch. We wanted to make a difference and thought we need to do more for rural areas, and came up with the idea of setting up a vaccine centre. We spoke to Sundar, as we know about his initiatives. As we want more people to get vaccinated, we came up with the idea of a lucky draw to make it like a ‘festival’,” he said.
The organisers are already getting requests from other villages in Tamil Nadu, and states like Andhra Pradesh to run similar drives.
The organisers have also asked several popular film and TV stars to record video messages about the importance of vaccination.
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