Dr Rinchin Neema, 41, District Immunisation officer, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh
As the District Immunisation Officer of Tawang, Dr Rinchin Neema has led several Covid-19 vaccination drives since March. For the 41-year-old, one of the most challenging trips was when he and his team undertook a 12-hour-long trek to vaccinate a group of yak grazers in the remote border village of Lugthang, 14,000 ft above sea level.
A journey of seven hours by car was followed by the arduous trek from the base of the hill, featuring heavy rains during the monsoon in July. The team, dressed in raincoats and gumboots, had to navigate a terrain which was extremely inhospitable: slippery, muddy and steep.
“But that is just another day if you are an immunisation officer in a remote place like Tawang,” said Neema, who has been involved in the government’s immunisation programs for 15 years now. “Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many such drives are getting attention now. But I have been doing routine immunisation in remote places since the first day on the job,” he said, adding that he was “happy to” since it was his “duty”.
The official has administered vaccines in other remote places such as Mago and Jethang, the last Indian villages before the Tibet border. “In places like Arunachal Pradesh, where most people reside in remote areas, it is impossible for them to come to us. So we have to go to them… the last Indian citizens,” he said.
Along the way, the team takes all the help they can. For example, in the Lugthang trek, they hired a few ponies to help lug the equipment. However, otherwise, it is mostly on what Neema calls their “willpower and motivation”. “Some team members experienced altitude sickness, but everyone dealt with it and carried on,” he said, adding that even the Deputy Commissioner of Tawang accompanied the team on some treks to motivate them.
In remote places, the team usually stays in the village overnight before making their way back to the district headquarters the next morning. “We also have to carry the vaccine iceboxes carefully… in slippery terrains, it proves to be the most challenging,” he said.
He added that it was a matter of pride that he — and his colleagues — had managed to inoculate the most interior village of “under immense difficulties.”
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