Covid-19: About 60 to 70 percent of India’s population lives in rural areas. According to the 2011 census, the population of urban, mixed and rural areas was 13.6%, 13.6% and 72.8% respectively. It was believed that the overall vaccination distribution would be more inclined towards the cities, because the public health infrastructure there is better than in rural areas and access to them is also relatively easy.
This idea became a cause of concern when the government launched the Kovid-19 vaccine in the market for the people. A research by Hindustan Times in June 2021 showed that someone living in urban India was almost twice as likely to get the Kovid-19 vaccine than people living in rural and semi-urban areas.
Rural India performs better in vaccination
This finding proved to be true for the period between May 2021 and July 2021, in which vaccination delivery was lower for rural communities than for urban communities. However, the last few months saw more vaccination distribution in rural parts which gave a new dimension to the vaccination coverage. Of course, there are state-level variations on this. Nevertheless, overall rural districts are performing much better on this front.
Now villages are getting more doses of vaccine
According to a Mint article, as of September 1, rural districts had received 489 doses per 1,000 persons, while urban districts had received 451 doses. However, this is not the time to rejoice. If we want to see the entire adult population 100% vaccinated by the end of the year, then the government has to reach the rural population rapidly. Unlike the current conditions in urban India, more obstacles are seen in rural areas.
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The fact is that the health infrastructure in rural areas is weak and this is well known. Although the availability of doctors such as doctors, nurses and trained support staff is less in the government health care system throughout India, but this problem is more severe in rural areas. The problem of accessibility and availability is also more serious here than in urban areas.
Carrying a taxi in rural areas is also a challenge
Therefore, cold chain management and taking the vaccine to remote parts of rural areas remains a major challenge. In addition, there is also a need to focus on vaccinating the differently-abled, the elderly, and people with mobility difficulties. The expected third wave will affect less the community that has more vaccine coverage.
In some districts, an encouraging step has been taken by allowing tatkal vaccination with tatkal registration, which will help those who have limited technical knowledge and do not know how to do online registration, booking on CO-WIN dashboard. This has undoubtedly increased vaccine coverage. However, it has also seen long queues and overcrowding at vaccination centers that do not have enough medical personnel to manage such a scenario.
People are showing interest in getting the vaccine
Sometimes people stand in queues and wait for hours to get vaccinated, and they have to go back on their backs knowing that there is no vaccine left for them and now they will have to come again tomorrow or some other day.
In many cases, people stand for hours and wait for their turn for the second dose, and they find that the vaccine being administered there is different from their first dose. Compliance itself becomes a big issue, increasing the chances of infection in the vaccination center itself.
It is necessary to inform about the availability of the vaccine
Providing regular supply of vaccine and informing people about the availability of vaccine daily is the solution to these challenges. A large part of rural India is dependent on daily wages and hence it is not easy for them to reach health centres. He has to leave his daily livelihood and go frequently, and because of this he has started shying away from getting the vaccine.
We are slowly moving towards the goal of vaccinating all adults. However, it is extremely important to have a regular supply of the vaccine and take it to the hinterland of India. There is a need for better infrastructure and delivery mechanism for vaccine for children and booster dose for adults.
(Author- Anil Parmar, Vice President, Community Investment, United Way Mumbai)
(Note: This is the personal opinion of the author.)
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