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Dr. N.K. Sinha, SIO Bihar Inspires the field team

Dr. N.K. Sinha (SIO) with Dr. Manoj Kumar Chaudhary (DIO Bhagalpur), Ms. Suparna (CARE representative), Md. Rashi (PCI District Coordinator) and Rajeev Ranjan Kumar (PCI Block Coordinator) at the Gokulpur session site.

On the 25th March, the Project Concern International (PCI) team had the opportunity to host the respected State Immunization Officer (SIO) of Bihar, Dr. N.K Sinha, in one of the session site villages in Bhagalpur district. The team comprising the District Immunization Officer (DIO) Dr. Manoj Kumar Chaudhary, District Project Manager (DPM) Faizan Alam Ashrafi, and partner agency representatives from CARE, UNICEF, UNDP and WHO accompanied Dr. Sinha on the visit.
The session site planned and organized by the PCI team was in Gokulpur village of the Sanhoula Block in Bhagalpur. Gokulpur is one of the villages under the Randomized Control Trial (RCT) conducted by the PCI team in partnership with Yale University to identify effective strategies to break hesitancy and ensure vaccination uptake. Four site sessions have been planned and executed successfully in Gokulpur by the RECOVER Bihar field team in the months of March and April. Situated on the border of Bihar and Jharkhand, Gokulpur is a hard to reach village which is home to the tribal community of Santals, mainly speaking Santali. Establishing trust with the community that doesn’t trust easily, mobilizing a demography with extremely low literacy and consistent language barrier emerged as major challenges for the PCI team. Recruiting the Village Mobilization Coordinator (VMC) solved a lot of the aforementioned issues, smoothening the trust building journey as well as helping in translating and supporting the rest of the PCI team to communicate with the village residents. Breaking refusal in this village and successfully setting up 4 vaccination session sites in Gokulpur was no easy feat. Therefore, the PCI team as well as the respected DIO, Dr Chaudhary decided to propose the RECOVER Bihar village visit to Dr. Sinha. On the day of the visit, Dr. Sinha along with aforementioned officials and partner agency representatives, observed the session site set up for 15+ eligible beneficiaries.

Dr. N.K. Sinha (SIO) with Dr. Manoj Kumar Chaudhary (DIO Bhagalpur), Ms. Suparna (CARE representative), and Md. Rashi (PCI District Coordinator) looking at the home sticker.

As the SIO Dr. Sinha entered the village, he spotted the home sticker, and was informed by the team about its purpose. The team shared the entire vaccination process implemented under the project, right from line listing for due list identification, using mobilization tools for preparedness and reminders as well as coupon, mask and certificate distribution to complete the vaccination journey. The SIO sir also interacted with beneficiaries and was surprised to find many people were still due for the first dose despite consistent efforts of the State.

A day before the site session, VMC went door to door and invited those who were due to the campsite by giving them a mobilization token. The token had information around the vaccination process, number of the PHC in case any counseling or medical support is required pre and post vaccination. Two tokens were distributed, one for Pregnant and Lactating women and the other one for General and Chronically Ill populations, both offering relevant precautionary instructions so that there are minimal side effects.

Upon hearing from the beneficiaries, how the VMC with the strong support of ASHA mobilized the village, Dr. Sinha had only positive things to say. He acknowledged the efforts of the PCI field team to take up such hard-to-reach areas, identify the ones left and ensure they are vaccinated whilst following the proper protocols. The verifiers were using the CoWIN app and rigorously following the registration and dose tracking processes. The line listing was thorough and the due list made sure not one beneficiary fell through the cracks.

To ensure a positive vaccination experience, the sessions were designed by understanding the needs of the beneficiaries. As majority of the population works as a daily wage laborer, one of the four session sites was planned at 6 in the morning, so that the village residents don’t miss out work and consequently their daily income.

Being an RCT intervention village, each of the beneficiaries received a coupon of Rs. 200. For many who work as daily wage laborers, the coupon was received as compensation, in case they had to miss their work. Additionally, besides a mask each beneficiary was provided with a paracetamol at the session site as a precaution which was quite helpful as the distance to PHC from the village is almost 25 kilometers. Post the vaccination, VMC also went house to house and distributed vaccination certificates to each beneficiary.

As per the line listing, a total of 705 above the age of 15 were eligible to be vaccinated. Before PCI’s intervention 362 had received their first dose and 161 had received their second dose, thanks to the consistent efforts by the district PHC team. However, Gokulpur was a high-refusal village. Post PCI’s intervention, a total of 456 got vaccinated for the 1st dose, and 313 were vaccinated for the second dose through four session sites. What has made this achievement all the more special is that all of the above 1st dose recipients that were vaccinated under RECOVER Bihar were refusal cases. SIO sir, Dr. N.K. Sinha’s visit was very motivating and inspiring for the team.

“Our team felt great that our work was recognised at the State Level. Such positive feedback from the SIO sir has inspired us to keep going and do better. We will work tirelessly to ensure 100% vaccination in all of the RECOVER villages in Bhagalpur”.

Md. Rashid, District Coordinator, Bhagalpur

We appreciate the commendable efforts of Meena Ful Murmu (Village Mobilization Coordinator), Sohail Akhtar and Jyotish Kumar (Verifiers), Rajeev Ranjan Kumar
(Block Coordinator) and Md Rashid (District Coordinator) in bringing this village a step closer to 100% vaccination coverage.