Bridging the Gap Between Vaccine Eagerness vs. Hesitancy: Ensuring Access to COVID-19 Vaccination for the Vulnerable and Marginalized Sections in Ganjam District of Odisha, India
In March, PTF signed an agreement with long-time partner, Youth for Social Development (YSD) in India to begin a new project focused on ensuring access to COVID-19 vaccinations for vulnerable populations in Odisha, India. The project, focused on the Ganjam district, will aim to address existing challenges with local vaccine distribution campaigns, specifically those which reinforce inequities and existing barriers to access. Another major focus of the project is addressing vaccine hesitancy, particularly evident among at-risk populations. This work will build on the COVID-19 response work conducted by PTF and YSD in 2020, as part of PTF’s broader COVID-19 response and vaccine monitoring portfolio.
PTF and the India Development Relief Fund (IDRF) will fund this project.
PTF Project Team:
Vinay Bhargava, Chief Technical Adviser
Samuel Stalls, Program Manager
Rachel Ansley, Communications Manager
Partners: Youth for Social Development
The project, to be implemented over a twelve-month timeline will focus on creating an enabling environment around COVID-19 vaccination. This involves gauging the attitudes and perceptions of target populations, sensitizing key groups to the benefits of the vaccine, and supporting vulnerable groups who have thus far struggled to access vaccines. In doing so, YSD will ensure equitable distribution of resources and take meaningful steps to close the trust gap between citizens and local officials.
Project objectives include:
- Identifying marginalized and vulnerable persons in the community and engage with authorities for equitable vaccination, finding gaps and grievances readdress
- Creating awareness by disseminating factual information on vaccinations and monitoring vaccine hesitancy
- Improving vaccination acceptability by sharing health and social benefits and minimize dispel myths and boost demand
- Monitoring service delivery at vaccination centers, identify any gaps, issues, and challenges, and engage with the local authorities to achieve effective service delivery and mitigate challenges
In the first phase of the project, YSD will achieve these objectives through a program of close communication and coordination with local community members—initially conducting a baseline survey of perceptions and attitudes toward vaccination, followed by ongoing discussions to identify key issues and craft the necessary messaging to dispel myths around the vaccine and convey its importance. The results of the survey will also be shared with local authorities to ensure their involvement in efforts to improve constructive engagement with citizens.
These outreach efforts will be supplemented by third-party monitoring of vaccination centers to observe the facilities and service delivery procedures, ensure protocols to prioritize vulnerable populations are followed, identify any challenges, and work with local authorities to remedy issues found.
Phase two of the project will focused largely on collecting and sharing information with citizens, identifying vulnerable populations, assisting with registration and access to vaccines, and continued engagement with authorities to improve vaccination programs.
At the conclusion of the one-year project, YSD aims to have improved community perceptions of COVID-19 vaccines, helped the most vulnerable populations gain access to the vaccine, identified and mitigate key challenges to vaccination campaigns, reported on those issues to local authorities, and created a long-term action plan for ongoing engagement with the relevant officials to ensure consistency of efforts and the sustainability of the project.