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Vaccine – The New Normal

As we are all battling COVID-19, the pandemic that has taken the whole world by a storm like never before, the vaccine is hope for all – the rich of richest or the poor of the poorest, everyone is struggling in their own ways with the arrival of the vaccination. Some are struggling within themselves with the fear of the side effects of the vaccine on their health and not welcoming the vaccine, on the other hand, there is a large segment of people who do not have access or reach to the vaccine. The worst affected by the pandemic are the underserved people including the key population most affected by HIV & AIDS.

In the recent past, I was part of the organizing team of vaccine camp at my organization which gave me a sense of satisfaction that ‘I was able to do my bit’ in helping the community members to have access to the vaccine which they had been struggling for. I was also taken aback by the realization of how important it was to handhold them through the process and I was questioning myself – where would they go or who would they get help from provided the challenges community members face in accessing treatment due to the social stigma and discrimination that they face and also their incapability to register on the web-based sophisticated vaccine portal. And hence my determination to do more for the community members doubled in zeal and passion.

I still recall, one of our community members from the female sex workers group who had come for the vaccination had trypanophobia or the fear of needles and asked me to hold her tight when she was being pricked, I hurried to grasp her to my arms and to divert her mind elsewhere I started to converse with her regarding her whereabouts and in no time she was inoculated. When the paramedic told her that the process was completed, I could see her face brightening as she didn’t feel the prick due to the women-to-women conversation that we were busy in, and then I felt a sense of relief.

There was one more person belonging to men who have sex with men group who was recently been diagnosed with diabetes. He approached me with a lost expression and asked ‘Mam, I have sugar, is it safe for me to get vaccinated’, immediately, I directed him to the doctor who was part of our team to manage such queries of community members coming to the vaccination camp.

These are just a few glimpses of the challenges faced by the most underserved population who lack adequate information about the COVID-19 vaccine and looking at the vaccine camp setups at the government clinics where the vaccine is provided at a scale of thousands per day with no proper information or counselling services, the key population is certain to feel lost in the crowd fueling reluctance for taking the vaccination.

This is why we as NGOs and civil society play an important role in helping and supporting our community members in accessing pandemic preventive services in a comprehensive manner from the point of communicating to the community members regarding the diseases to the time they complete the full process of protection measures.

We value our community members, their life matters, we march on as foot soldiers to battle against the COVID-19 pandemic and act as the shield to the needy. We need your continued support, please be with us, as COVID-19 is here to stay and we are also here to keep it at bay.

~ Written by: Pemu Doma Bhutia | Assistant Manager: Institutional Engagement

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