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Bollywood films used to lure rural residents of Thane to get vaccinated | Bombay News

When nothing else worked, good old Bollywood came to the rescue of district authorities and social workers who were struggling to deal with the vaccination hesitancy of people in the rural belt of Thane district.

Social worker, Baban Harne from Shahpur used popular films and shared photos of these celebrities getting vaccinated to encourage and motivate the villagers to get shots. Like Baban, many Anganwadi teachers, Asha workers and other social workers worked hard to eliminate the skeptical mindset and, with the help of gifts and other benefits, motivated to many people to come forward and get vaccinated in rural areas.

Since mid-July, when the response from the villagers was low, as was the number of vaccine doses available in the district, the vaccination campaign has increased to over 96%. Not only has the availability and number of centers increased, but also awareness related to vaccination. This is the response that the Thane district health department asked the collector to arrange for a mobile vaccination center in rural areas.

“Not all villages or tribal settlements have a health center nearby. In many places we have converted schools and gram panchayat offices into vaccination centers for the convenience of physically handicapped, bedridden and elderly people. Therefore, there is a need for a mobile vaccination center which will help provide better facilities to the villagers. We have sought permission from the District Collector for the same,” said Thane District Health Officer Dr Manish Renge.

People residing in rural areas and especially in tribal hamlets in Bhiwandi, Shahpur and Murbad regions had a lot of misconceptions about the vaccine. This led to low turnout initially in these areas. Many used to hide in their homes or in the fields to avoid interacting with Zilla Parishad officials. Some also feared being forced to get vaccinated.

“Villages in areas like Talwada, Rodvahal, Jambhulpada, Chillarvadi, Junavali are complete Adivasi Padas, where resistance to getting vaccinated was quite evident. Many feared that the vaccination would impact their fertility. We started supplying stationery to children in these villages and took the opportunity to show films by well-known Bollywood actors. Later, we showed them pictures of the same actors getting shot,” Harne said.

“Children would go home and talk to family members, especially mothers. In many cases, mothers also watched movies with us and were inspired to get vaccinated. Along with the women, their husbands and the elderly also came forward to get vaccinated. So almost 60% of the people in these tribal villages have changed their minds and have now taken the first dose,” Harne added.

By mid-July, rural areas of Thane district had vaccinated barely 25% with at least the first dose. “Currently, there is a continuous supply of vaccine doses. It also helped us to organize around 90 sessions also in one day in rural areas. If we have enough manpower, we can definitely hold more sessions,” Renge added.

The rural areas of Thane district include Ambernath, Bhiwandi, Kalyan, Murbad and Shahpur. So far, seven lakh people have been vaccinated with at least the first dose in rural pockets among the population of 14.89 lakh. Of these, 5.57 lakh (75%) have received the first dose and 1.84 lakh (24%) are fully immunized in rural areas so far.

Cases of vaccinators not providing proper advice to beneficiaries regarding side effects causing villagers to panic have also occurred. “We have strictly requested vaccinators to guide and provide basic medicines to beneficiaries who are getting vaccinated. Additionally, they are kept under observation for some time after being bitten. Our team of Asha workers also visit the vaccinated elderly people and inquire about their health,” said a senior officer from the district health department, Thane.

Many are daily workers, unfamiliar with online reservations, and it becomes difficult for them to travel long distances to the health center just to get stung. “There have been cases where these villagers visited the center but were turned away due to lack of doses initially. To encourage them, we adapted various methods such as providing books and raincoats to children, groceries to women, and engaging in conversations with other family members while distributing these items. We have also done our best to earn their trust. In doing so, we also sensitized them about Covid and the importance of getting vaccinated,” said Kundan Patil, a Bhiwandi resident and Zilla Parishad health committee member.