A good number of young Indians are ready to register, wait, pay and get the Covid-19 vaccine, but vaccination slots are not so easy to get. Cut to a different world and its not just vaccines that are free, if lucky, you could end up winning anything from gold coins, bikes, washing machines, induction cooktops among other home appliances.
A group of NGOs are going the extra mile to help battle vaccine hesitancy and ensure that the entire eligible population of a fishing hamlet gets vaccinated.
Located about 50kms from the southern Indian city of Chennai is the scenic fishing hamlet of Kovalam. The primary occupation of its over 16,000 population is, of course, fishing, tourism and promoting water sports.
However, things haven’t been going well for the village and its residents since the pandemic struck. According to Kovalam residents and surfers Sekar and Dharani of SurfTurf, there were not many Covid-19 cases in their village, but their livelihoods were badly hit.
“The inflow of tourists came to a halt, restrictions on sporting activities were in place and there were no means to hold surfing festivals that attract huge crowds to the village. This was made worse by misinformation and rumors that are spreading fast on social media,” they told Zee media. When vaccines were available, the villagers simply refused to take the jab, they added.
A group of NGOs working in the village during the pandemic setup helplines and catered to the needs of residents by home-delivering essentials, grocery, masks, immunity boosters and much more. But, as vaccines became available, even getting the eligible elders to sign up was a herculean task.
That’s when an idea struck them – to offer not just vaccines for free, but also provide the villagers some goodies that would cheer them up or improve their life – it could be anything from a plate of biryani to even a brand new motorbike.
STS Foundation, in partnership with CN Ramdas and Chiraj Trusts has a two pronged strategy to boost vaccination in the village – to offer short term incentives like mobile phone recharges and a plate of biryani on a daily basis, along with long term bumper prizes such as gold coins, washing machines, refrigerators, bikes, induction stoves, LPG cooktops via a lucky draw etc.
The villagers are also provided free pickup and drop to the vaccination center. Everyone taking the jab receives a token and a counter foil, which would be later used for the bumper lucky draw.
“Of over 6400 people eligible to take the jabs, we have successfully enrolled 640 persons and given the first dose to more than 200 persons over the last two days. As word spreads fast in the village, we are expecting a flurry of registrations and hope to have the entire eligible population vaccinated as soon as possible,” J Sundar, Trustee, STS Foundation told Zee media.
We’ve setup helpline numbers for people to call and tele-register, so that we can enlist them for vaccination. With the current availability, we are doing upto 100 shots per day and hopefully this will increase, he added. The NGOs partnering with the people of Kovalam and the Health department wish to put this beautiful coastal hamlet and surfing hotspot on the map for being a model vaccination village.