Tripura is one of the highest vaccinated states in the country with over 98 per cent of its 45 plus population vaccinated against COVID-19.
“I didn’t feel any pain” says Purna Laxmi Debbarma, an 85-year-old from Ramkrishna Para in West Tripura district as she gets her first shot of covid vaccine. “I will be healthy with this vaccine. And I am happy”, she continued. Today, Tripura is one of the highest vaccinated states in the country with over 98 per cent of its 45 plus population vaccinated against COVID-19. Over 80 per cent of the 18 plus population has also been vaccinated at least with the first COVID dose. From initial vaccine hesitancy among a large group of people to irregular vaccine supply to finally becoming a vaccine trailblazer in the country, here’s how the tiny Northeast state achieved the vaccine feat.
How did the state address vaccine hesitancy?
The first challenge that needed to be addressed was Tripura’s 37 lakh population spread across eight districts. Tribal hamlets in the state were poorly connected and had rough terrains. Lack of awareness on COVID among the population was the next big challenge in the state. This led to a concerted push to drive home the message that vaccines are safe for use. Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb started with the televised appeal as early as March this year. Personalised letters from district Chief Medical Officers were also sent out in Hindi, Bengali and other regional dialects–Kokborok. Awareness campaigns through public announcement systems and pamphlets were also distributed in local languages. Then comes thousands of vaccination camps that were conducted across the state. The state government employed an army of 50,000 employees alongwith 20,000 healthcare workers, security personnel and police to take vaccine to far-flung villages–Nabachandpara and Rambhaktapara in West Tripura or Gandacherra and Raishyabari in Dhalai district. The vaccination drive was even taken to the tribal hamlets with two-three families.
The picture changed gradually
Talking about the vaccination camps and door-to-door visits, Dr Dalia Sharma, a Community Health Officer (CHO) at the Shantinagar health sub-centre in West Tripura district, who was also the part of campaign said that there was some hesitancy among people about the vaccine, especially in elderlies. Language also became a problem by then. But ASHA workers and local organisations, who took part in the campaign, helped me and gradually things started changing for the better. We vaccinated a 99-year-old woman a few days ago and she was very happy after taking the jab.
Success of the vaccine programme
On Tuesday, Chief Minister Shri Biplab Kumar Deb announced the success of the vaccine programme and wrote, I am happy to announce that 100 per cent vaccinations have been achieved in 73 gram panchayat areas in different districts of the state. Tripura held special drives, to boost the vaccination figures in the state, in two phases — May 25-27 and June 21-22 — during which over 5 lakh people were vaccinated. Some 102 refrigerators and 20 deep freezers were also distributed by the state government across the state.
Dr Ishita Guha, District Information Officer, West Tripura said that they have been administering vaccines in big numbers now. Some days are recording up to 20,000 doses a day. During a special drive, we administered 50,000 doses in a single day in the West district. While the hesitancy at some level still remains, some people are enthusiastic about taking the jabs, Dr Guha added.
Siddharth Jaiswal, state director, National Health Mission (NHM) said that while the vaccination drive had full support from everyone (Chief Minister, volunteers on the field, ASHA and Multi Purpose Workers (MPW)) people belonging to local communities came as a biggest support system. We had some difficulty in the beginning as there were rumours and people were not sure about the vaccine. But ASHA workers spoke to locals and ensured that vaccination is the only safe way at this point of time, he added.