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Story of a successful vaccination in Tripura

Tripura gained recognition in late 2021 for its impressive vaccination rates, which were achieved through the concerted efforts of healthcare workers, government officials, and community mobilisers. Rabi, the head of the Kherengbar Community Health Center (CHC), emphasised that this achievement was no small feat, given the challenging terrain and low awareness levels in the isolated regions of Tripura. He credited the dedication and tireless efforts of numerous individuals for this success.

The village of Kherengbar had relatively few COVID-19 cases over the past two years, but the community still grappled with fear and uncertainty related to the pandemic. “The media played a dual role in these remote villages of Tripura; on the one hand, they provided information, and on the other hand, they instilled fear,” said Rabi. Rabi and Sauravjeet, a community mobilizer, witnessed this as they established a COVID-19 care centre at the CHC and worked to promote vaccination in the community. “Any effort to approach the community members was met with resistance in the form of stone-throwing and even death threats,” said Sauravjeet.

Every foot soldier in the healthcare system of Tripura has made efforts towards reaching the last mile. Dr Sarika Debberma, Community Medical Officer, at the Health & Wellness Center, Chargaria, West Tripura, and her team, along with the government, have worked to debunk myths and overcome hesitations through one-on-one counselling and awareness. “Pregnant and lactating women were still hesitant and feared death from vaccinations, and the villagers even hid when vaccinators visited the village,” said Dr Sarika.

Working hand-in-hand with the healthcare system in Tripura, Volunteer Health Association (VHA), #COVIDActionCollab’s partner (now known as Community Action Collab) has helped the  communities overcome barriers to COVID-19 vaccination, increasing awareness and understanding. They produced posters and pamphlets in Hindi, Bengali and the regional dialect of Kokborok and used public announcement systems to run awareness campaigns. Additionally, they distributed pamphlets in local languages to ASHA workers and local organisations involved in the campaign.

The community influencers have also played a major role in mobilising the community for vaccinations. The Jamatia Sisters—Laxmi, Durgadevi, Sumita Rani, and Shebita—from the Tainani Village in the Gomti district of Tripura set an example for their community by getting vaccinated against COVID-19. In the beginning, the sisters were hesitant to get vaccinated and were fearful of the side effects, but Laxmi pointed out, “Jab sab log vaccine le rahe hai, toh hume bhi lena chaheye, parivar to surakshit rakhne ke liye.” (Everyone is getting vaccinated, and we should too, to keep our family safe.) She was the first in her family to get the jab, and she convinced her sisters and other family members to get theirs as well. The door-to-door vaccination efforts from VHA were critical and made sure that the whole tribe was vaccinated and no one was left behind. The elderly population of Tripura’s Purba Kalyanpur village was also successfully vaccinated through door-to-door vaccination camps organised by VHA in collaboration with the government.

The successful vaccination efforts in Tripura are a testament to the hard work and collaboration of health care workers, government officials, and community members. Despite facing challenges such as resistance and death threats, these individuals have dedicated themselves to ensuring the health and wellbeing of their communities. With the support of CAC, VHA worked closely with the government and amplified their efforts to increase awareness and speed up the vaccination efforts. Collaborative efforts like these are critical in ensuring that vulnerable communities #BounceForward from any crisis.