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Free helmets, dinner sets, doses in fields: How Nuh is pushing up vaccination

Announcements from loudspeakers at mosques and temples, discounts on medicines, even free helmets and dinner sets for the vaccinated — these are among initiatives by the Nuh administration to step up the pace of Covid-19 vaccination in the Haryana district.

Nuh has the lowest vaccination rate in Haryana and, according to data shared at the conference of state health ministers in Delhi in October, was among the 48 lowest performing districts in the country in terms of vaccine coverage.

Data shared by Nuh district administration shows that till November 22, the first dose coverage in Nuh stood at 50.2% (as against the all-India rate of 82%) and the second dose coverage at 10.8% (all-India: 44%). Out of 435 villages in the district, only 38 have been fully vaccinated. In a state where almost 90% of the adult population has got the first dose and over 46% both doses, Nuh is a glaring
outlier.

Earlier this month, the district administration decided to go all out to push up vaccination rates in Nuh — from door-to-door inoculations to launching a string of incentives to encourage beneficiaries.

The push seems to be working. From an average of 250 doses per day in June, so far in November, 15,000 daily doses have been given to beneficiaries, say officials. On Thursday, 15,918 people were vaccinated, with 14,386 getting the first dose and 1,532 receiving the
second dose.

Nuh Deputy Commissioner (DC) Captain Shakti Singh said that as a first step to tackle the low vaccination rate, a monitoring committee with influential people from the village — clerics, ex-sarpanchs, women self-help groups — was set up to mobilise people to get vaccinated.

“The committee conducted an awareness programme and dispelled rumours about the vaccine and informed us where to send our vaccinator teams. We also found that lack of public transport was a deterrent for people to get vaccinated, so we arranged vehicles to ferry them. Now, since sowing season is on, we are sending teams to agricultural fields to enhance coverage. A pilot programme has started in Punhana and teams will go to other places,” said Singh.

He said the administration also roped in local religious leaders and asked them to make announcements on loudspeakers from mosques and
temples, persuading people to get vaccinated.

The DC said the administration also tied up with traders to incentivise people.

“Some petrol pump dealers have offered a discount of 50 paise per litre to fully vaccinated people. People can show their vaccination certificates on phone and avail the discount. The local chemist association has also agreed to offer a 5% discount on medicines to those who have taken their first dose and a discount of 10% to the fully vaccinated. We are in talks with local automobile dealers about schemes where vaccinated people will get a free helmet and a dinner set on purchasing a motorcycle,” said Singh, adding that they had brought in a policy wherein only vaccinated people would be allowed to distribute ration at depots in the district.

The administration also roped in local celebrities, among them Salman Ali, a reality show singer, who recorded a video message asking people to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

“The low literacy levels and lack of education are major reasons why vaccination rates are low in Nuh [56% literacy among men and 35% among women]. Orthodoxy and rumour mongering are other reasons. People would rather listen to the cleric than to doctors or officials. Also, it has been a while since the second wave and the fear has passed. People do not want to risk the fever from the vaccine — sowing season is on and they don’t want to sit at home,” said Singh.

He added that for the next phase of inoculation, the state government has directed the district administration to target 50 villages with the lowest vaccination rates.

Officials said the health department hired 44 cars to help over 1,100 ASHA workers and 220 Auxiliary Nurse Midwives to go to vaccination centres in the district.

While villages that achieved 100% vaccination were given grants for infrastructure projects, top vaccinators were identified. “To motivate the staff, a daily list of top five vaccinators, based on doses administered, is prepared and circulated among all PHCs and CHCs in the district. At the same time, vaccinators at the bottom of that list are contacted to understand the challenges they face,” said the DC.

An official of the health department, requesting anonymity, said, “After the appointment of data entry operators, the productivity of vaccinators improved remarkably. Earlier, a vaccinator could only vaccinate 50 people a day since a lot of time was spent uploading and managing data. The current average of a vaccinator is 426 vaccinations a day.”

Sunita, who works at a primary health centre in Ghasera, in Nuh, said vaccine hesitancy was a major problem in the district. “At the village and community level, we are working with panchayats to counsel people about the long-term benefits of vaccination,” she said.

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