“I chose to lead by example and that’s why I took the vaccination. I wanted to encourage my acquaintances to take it too,” said 26-year-old Karishma Jamadar who works with Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP) – a partner organisation of #COVIDActionCollab (CAC) – that works to promote sustainable community development by empowering women and fostering collective leadership in Maharashtra’s Solapur.
“I also made a video on vaccination which helped the community members receive complete information on the topic. It made them feel safe to take the vaccine. Earlier, some of them had even asked for a guarantee in writing that nothing would happen to them after taking the vaccination. It was CAC’s timely intervention that helped us in setting up vaccination camps for the community members. The training sessions conducted by them further helped us in convincing people to get vaccinated,” Karishma added.
Volunteers and community mobilisers like Karishma form the backbone of CAC’s collaborative efforts. They have joined hands with us to ensure that the communities we work with are resilient towards any crisis and are capable of overcoming any challenges they might face.
Swayam Shikshan Prayog was established in 1993 with the aim to empower women in low-income communities/regions and in doing this, they have reached the most vulnerable people in the remotest of areas of Maharashtra. Through their association with #COVIDActionCollab, SSP has been able to mobilise communities for vaccination by arranging logistics, organising camps, and holding meetings at the village level. “Initially, we faced immense resistance from the communities we work with, however, our collaboration with CAC helped us in identifying the root cause behind their hesitation, and resolving it,” said Shamal Gurav who works as a Project Manager at SSP.
Prior to joining SSP, most of the community members were confined to their homes. After they started working with SSP, they were introduced to Self Help Groups (SHGs) which helped them improve their confidence and communication skills. “We played an important role in mobilizing the community for taking the vaccination. We even formed a group comprising important people and influencers from the community like ASHA workers, police, representatives from the panchayat, the Sarpanch and teachers and went door-to-door to advocate the importance of vaccinations,” said Ashwini, a volunteer and an SHG leader.
“Even though we received a lot of support from the communities, there were instances when we were not even allowed to stand outside people’s houses. There were many rumours and misinformation about vaccinations which stopped many of them from believing anything we had to say. Under the ‘Har Ghar Dastak’ campaign, we did door-to-door campaigning with ASHA workers and Anganwadi workers. Our day would start with a meeting and deciding the area and houses we would visit during the day. But some people were not ready to take the vaccination and those who were ready had no documents/ID proofs,” shared Ganga Mhamane, a community leader.
Convincing older people with comorbidities was another challenge they faced. “We already knew the communities well because we had worked with them earlier. With the resources provided by CAC, we devised a step-by-step plan to get more people vaccinated. It helped us get 90% of the community members vaccinated with the first and second doses. We also made the best use of the restrictions levied by the government at that time to get people vaccinated. We told them they would be restricted from travelling freely, using public transport, and entering shops without the vaccination certificate,” Rani Vatkar, a volunteer at SSP said.
The reason why most people were not willing to get vaccinated was their socioeconomic status. “Most of them feared falling sick, losing their livelihoods, and inviting more debt,” shared Kanchan Kumbhar, a community leader about why people were hesitant towards receiving the vaccination.
At #COVIDActionCollab (CAC), addressing vaccine hesitancy has been critical at every stage of facing the pandemic. With our collaborative approach and with the support of ground partners like SSP, we have been able to ensure that the preparedness of the communities improves and that they become resilient in every aspect when faced with unprecedented challenges.