August 18, 2022

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NASHIK: Flashlights of smartphones and solar-powered streetlights are turning out to be the Covid vaccinators’...
NASHIK: Flashlights of smartphones and solar-powered streetlights are turning out to be the Covid vaccinators’ SOS kit after sunset in several remote villages of north Maharashtra’s Nandurbar district.
When a four-member health team recently visited Malgaon village in Shahada taluka of Nandurbar, the entire hamlet had plunged into darkness due to load shedding. It was impossible for the team members to vaccinate even one person in such a situation.
The team was determined to inoculate at least a section of the villagers though, and, after quick thinking, they switched on the flashlights of their cellphones and helped the vaccinators administer the shots.
The health team ran into a similar hurdle a few days later at Vadagaon village, barely 15km from Malgaon. Fortunately, the solar streetlights were functional at the village and the vaccination team went ahead with their mission.
Malgon and Vadagaon are not the only villages in Nandurbar where health teams on vaccination missions are banking on cellphone flashlights or solar streetlights to inoculate citizens.
Dr Mahendra Chavan, district health officer, told TOI: “A section of our health teams faces similar problems daily, in at least 8-10 villages, where power cuts are frequent. The teams visit homes of beneficiaries and use flashlights of cellphones to vaccinate them. They also get beneficiaries together under solar streetlights and administer the vaccine shots.”
With Nandurbar’s vaccination track record being extremely sluggish, the local administration, led by district collector Manisha Khatri, has gone all out to improve vaccine coverage in the district. Nandurbar is at the bottom among the 35 districts in Maharashtra in terms of anti-Covid vaccine coverage.
“When the Centre’s door-to-door campaign started on November 3, we realized that increasing the vaccination coverage during the daytime would remain a major challenge. A large section of the beneficiaries is busy working during the day, due to which footfall at vaccination centres was low. We decided that our health teams would visit villages in the evening, after the beneficiaries return from work,” Dr Chavan added.
The Nandurbar zilla parishad has mobilized 180 health teams – each team comprising four members – that continue to reach out to villages in the six talukas after 5.30pm to vaccinate villagers. The teams spend around 2-3 hours in each village. The result appears encouraging, as the vaccine coverage has improved significantly. In the past one month, over 3.03 lakh doses have been administered, the bulk of which are first shots of the beneficiaries, the district health officer said.
“Visibility is not an issue when smartphone flashlights or streetlights are used to vaccinate people. I was a part of the team at Vadagaon, which carried out vaccination under the solar streetlight. We did not face any hiccups,” Dr Sachin Pawara, community health officer of Shahada taluka, said. The evening sessions in villages are planned a couple of days in advance and the local gram pradhan and the Asha worker are informed about the event.
The aim is to mobilize the beneficiaries. On the day of vaccination, the team members either travel in a government vehicle or on their two-wheelers to reach the designated villages. “There is still some amount of vaccine hesitancy among a section of people in many villages. It takes a lot of persuasion before they agree to take the shots,” a health official said.

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