Community Based Care & Support for COVID-19
By Lovely Zogta, #COVIDActionCollab
February 12, 2022
Vulnerable communities are unnoticed and ignored. Barriers such as fear of post-vaccination side effects, difficulties in reaching the vaccination center, and discrimination prevent communities from getting their shot of protection. The access-related issues require collaborative efforts from multiple entities pooling their resources, expertise, and knowledge to find the solutions. The #COVIDActionCollab’s (CAC) initiative, VaxNow has been working towards increasing access to vaccination among vulnerable people who typically face barriers when accessing health care and are now at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.
CAC has been working closely with local administration in an effort to enhance vaccine coverage among vulnerable communities. The field team working in Chikkaballapur, Karnataka has been assisting the local governments in identifying gaps on the ground and adapting its outreach plan appropriately.
Community Based Care & Support for COVID-19
During one of the many vaccination camps held in Chikkaballapur, we spoke to a few individuals at the camp awaiting to get the jab. Through these conversations, we’ve been able to better understand the challenges faced when accessing vaccinations for vulnerable communities such as transpersons, people with disabilities (PwD), sex workers, and people living with HIV (PLHIV). Here are a few snippets from our conversations:
Karthik*was diagnosed with Polio at an early age and is a PwD. His friend accompanied him to the local vaccination center for his first dose. While there, he realized that the center wasn’t disabled-friendly. The vaccine was being administered on the first floor of the building, but there wasn’t an elevator for him to use. Karthik’s friend had to carry him up on the flight of stairs. Unfortunately, he wasn’t even counseled on post-vaccination care and the possible side effects he might face. Prioritizing and ensuring spaces like vaccination centers are disable friendly will ensure that the vaccines reach this vulnerable population.
As a part of the VaxNow initiative, the field teams engage with frontline health workers at a district level to share data on PwD and the elderly population in the area. Through this information, local health care workers are able to plan and execute home-based vaccinations for these populations.
Praveen*, a PLHIV, shared that he was only able to gather information on the vaccine during his visit to the ART (Antiretroviral Therapy) center, which he visits on a regular basis to collect his medication. During his visit, he inquired about the vaccine and if it would have any side effects on him as he was HIV+. The doctor at the center answered his questions and cleared his doubts while informing him that the vaccine was safe and wouldn’t cause any long-lasting harm to his health. Praveen also shared that it would have been ideal if the vaccine was given at the ART center itself.
A PLHIV is immunocompromised putting them at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Furthermore, the discrimination they face when in public makes them hesitant to discuss their concerns openly. To address this issue, the VaxNow partners have been working on creating an inclusive and safe environment so PLHIVs can share their concerns and doubts in an accepting environment.
Sumathi* who is a daily wage earner was skeptical about getting the vaccine. She had recently learned that her neighbor had passed away a day after taking the shot and due to misinformation the assumption was that they passed away due to the vaccine. While the medical records cited pre-existing heart disease as the cause of the death those living in Sumathi’s locality weren’t aware of that, hence the spread of misinformation.
Serious effects after the vaccination are rare but may occur, it’s important that those getting the vaccine are first tested for co-comorbidities and educated on a possible effect of the vaccine with their medication. Through CACs High Impact Intervention (HII) initiative vulnerable communities are screened for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) and co-morbidities as a preparatory ground for vaccination.
Shrimati* a sex worker looked forward to the vaccination, sharing that she has been actively mobilizing other women from her community to also get the jab.
Pre-vaccination counseling is essential. It helps individuals anticipate the post-vaccination side effects without the anxiety of the unknowns. Through the VaxNow initiative, our partners have been working closely with vulnerable communities to address vaccine hesitancy ensuring that the last mile is reached.
Click here to watch the communities we work with share their personal experience when accessing the COVID-19 Vaccination.
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COVIDActionCollab is not merely an aggregation of partners, but is an aggregation of capacities, through which we have developed key high impact initiatives. We have drawn upon our one year’s experience at CAC and engagement with our large constituency of partners to put together a menu of initiatives for funders/investors to support which will save lives and livelihoods, and enable vulnerable communities to 'bounce forward’. Support these initiatives to build resilient communities