COVID safe behaviour and increased COVID vaccination key to defeating COVID in tribal districts in Odisha

Rayagada : In collaboration with the Department of Health, Government of Odisha, UNICEF Odisha organized a virtual Media Sensitization Program on COVID and Vaccination in Malkangiri, Koraput & Rayagada.
The panel of speakers included Dr. Sashibhusan Panda, Child Health Manager, RI, Dr. Nilamadhav Satpathy (ADPHO) FW, Koraput, and Dr. Anil Patnaik Health Expert, Dr. Meena Som Health Expert & Radhika Srivastava, Communication Specialist from UNICEF Odisha. Describing prevention is better than cure, the sensitization program emphasized on awareness of COVID appropriate behaviour and encouraging more people to take the COVID vaccination.

Concerned over awareness level in the tribal districts of Rayagada, Koraput and Malkangiri due to geographic challenges, literacy rate as well as misconceptions related to the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, the panel stressed on the need of the media to play a positive role to highlight the facts and reinforce people’s belief in the vaccine. Speaking on the impact of COVID Dr. Anil Patnaik, UNICEF, Odisha stated, “People with comorbidities & immunity deficiency and senior citizens may be more vulnerable to COVID. Only 5% people are getting severely affected due to weaker immune system. In the 2nd wave it was also evident that more younger people are also getting affected by COVID”. He also spoke on different aspects of post COVID care and the need to monitor oxygen level, use of pulse oximeter and explained about the proning method for improvement in oxygen level. Dr Patnaik emphasized on frequent check of oxygen level in case a person tests COVID positive.

Apart from COVID appropriate behaviour, the most important weapon for prevention is the vaccine. Dr. Patnaik clarified that all vaccines are safe as they have gone through several phases of clinical testing. Vaccines for various diseases have existed for many decades and have saved lives. Similarly the COVID vaccine is also meant to protect people from the disease. He said the coverage of vaccination in these three districts was picking up and with the media support more people in the 18-44 age category will get their vaccinations.

Speaking on safety and efficacy of vaccine Dr. Sashibhusan Panda, Child Health Manager, Routine Immunization, Department of Health stated, “No vaccine gets prepared overnight. It takes many stages of testing before approval. The vaccines for COVID available in India have also gone through all required processes and testing.” Describing anti-bodies formed after the vaccine as soldiers to fight against COVID he further said, “The two doses of vaccines help in creating sufficient amount of anti-bodies in people. There are a few cases which are definitely of contradictory nature but those are because of other reasons like immunity deficiency due to comorbidities.” He also explained that the COVID vaccines are fully effective after 14 days of getting the second jab.

Dr. Nilamadhav Satpathy (ADPHO) FW, Koraput, stated, “People who have high blood pressure, diabetes or having other immune-deficiency syndrome are highly vulnerable. Hence they should come forward and get vaccinated sooner. As far as awareness is concerned we have started, door-to-door campaign by utilizing ASHA workers. We are getting good response and we would hopefully see more vaccine coverage in the days to come”
Dr. Meena Som Health Expert, UNICEF Odisha, urged the media to verify the information with concerned government officials and experts to ensure inaccurate information or wrong news is not published. The program was moderated by Radhika Srivastava, Communication Specialist, UNICEF Odisha.