How Tamil Nadu’s Nilgiris vaccinated all eligible tribal people with first dose

Officials made multiple visits to remote areas of the Nilgiris to raise awareness and ensure that all eligible beneficiaries received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Authorities vaccinating tribal people in Nilgiris
Authorities vaccinating tribal people in Nilgiris
Written by:

The Nilgiris district in Tamil Nadu has achieved a milestone in managing to administer the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to all eligible tribal people under its jurisdiction. According to authorities, a total of 21,435 tribal people were vaccinated over the last month, amid the second wave of COVID-19. Speaking to The News Minute, Nilgiris District Collector J Innocent Divya spoke about the challenges faced by authorities and how they managed to ensure that everyone got the first dose. “We have six Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs), out of which two live on higher planes, that is on the plateau, in Ooty and Coonoor areas. The rest live in the Sigur plateau area. The total population of PVTGs here is 27,000,” she said.

Divya said that the tribal people live in remote areas in small units — sometimes as small as five to 10 families. Around 90% of the tribal people in the area have route connectivity while 10% are yet to be covered as they live deep in the forest. “Initially, there was a lot of hesitancy among the people because many rumours were doing the rounds. In the first wave, tribal communities were unaffected, none of the colonies had seen even a single positive case. In the second wave, tribal people who were working elsewhere had contracted the infection and as they’re a close-knit community, the infection started spreading,” the Collector said.

“Our monitoring officer is Supriya Sahu, who is now Principal Secretary to the Tamil Nadu Government, Environment, Climate Change & Forests Department. She was previously the Collector here and she broached the idea that we should start vaccinating tribal people,” she added.

In the first week of May, when the second wave was at its peak, a meeting was held with officials and members of a Scheduled Tribes council — where every tribe is represented by a nominated leader. “We first convinced the leaders to take the jab, so they can lead by example. We held a special inoculation drive for them and explained in detail why they should take the vaccine. We managed to convince them that everyone, even those with comorbidities, can take the jab,” Divya said.

“We then had a meeting with NGOs working in the area, gave them individual targets and asked them to take ownership of this vaccination drive. The NGOs not only had to convince the people, but had to also help us take the vaccines to them,” she added. Three NGOs — Adivasi Munnetra Sangam, Association for Health Welfare and Nilgiri Wayanad Tribal Welfare Society— were part of the drive.

“The role of our Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC) workers, doctors and ASHA workers, who had to travel through very difficult terrain, even early in the mornings or late in the nights sometimes, was crucial. Sometimes, the tribal people would have left for work and the team would stay till they returned in the evening, and then vaccinate them,” Divya explained.

“Everything was executed as per an action plan, and every evening we would draw up another action plan and rectify any mistakes. Teams would visit the tribal people on the first day to convince them to get vaccinated, and on the second visit they would carry out the drive. Multiple visits were undertaken, to ensure that every single person in the village was inoculated. It was a collective effort and the entire team was motivated,” she added.

Related Stories

No stories found.
The News Minute