TO BE VACCINATED OR NOT

COVID-19 VACCINATION DRIVE BY SHELTER ASSOCIATES

While the world is looking forward to the best possible remedy to COVID19 through vaccinations, the fact remains that this vaccine comes with its own set of myths and misinformation. Medical experts worldwide believe that vaccines are as important to your overall health as diet and exercise, but the question still prevails: Should you get yourself vaccinated with the newly developed COVID19 vaccine? 

Photograph of a resident from the informal settlement wearing a mask

Before we come to a conclusion, a small study is necessary to separate myths from facts.

Myth no.1: We get adversely affected by COVID19 if we get vaccinated. 

Learning from the experts, COVID-19 vaccines are developed using science that has been around for decades. The vaccine has gone through all the required stages of clinical trials followed by extensive testing and trails. The end result shows it as safe and efficient with minor side effects which validate the effectiveness of the vaccine. In short, the COVID19 vaccine creates antibodies and none of the vaccines contain live virus that causes COVID19.

Myth no. 2: The COVID-19 vaccine causes infertility in men and women.

There is no such evidence that proves this point. The vaccine does not interact with a woman’s reproductive organs nor with men’s sperm production or fertility. Pregnant women are at a greater risk if infected with COVID, which is why it is essential to get vaccinated to prevent any pregnancy related issues. 

Myth no. 3: I’ve already been diagnosed with COVID-19, so I don’t need to get vaccinated.

Once a person recovers from COVID19, the body generates natural immunity and antibodies but that does not last for long. The person may get re-infected after a few months. That is the reason medical experts suggest COVID vaccine after 3 months of recovery. Studies have proved that vaccination provides a strong boost in protecting  people who have recovered from COVID-19.

Myth no. 4: Once I receive the COVID-19 vaccine, I no longer need to wear a mask.

While we understand the importance of getting vaccinated, it is equally true that no vaccine is 100% effective. Getting vaccinated does not mean we can go back to how life was earlier and move freely without masks. A vaccinated person might still be a carrier of the virus, even if they don’t feel sick. Thus, as per Government protocol, physical distancing, face masks and  handwashing is essential even after a person is vaccinated with both the doses of COVID19 Vaccine. 

While there are a lot of speculations and theories regarding the deadly COVID-19 virus, there is an imminent  danger that if you test positive, your entire family and those in contact with you are at high risk. The COVID-19 vaccine does not guarantee 100% protection from COVID-19 but it definitely helps in keeping oneself from getting seriously ill after testing positive. While the above explanations clear out most of the prevailing myths and strongly recommend vaccinations, individuals residing in the informal settlements may think differently. They live in dense settlements and are more vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus than the general public, but aren’t still fully convinced about the benefits of vaccination.

Shelter Associates, an NGO working for the betterment of the urban poor in Maharashtra through sanitation and housing for the last 28 years, has done extensive research on understanding communities and their preferences with respect to the prevailing COVID-19 scenario. Data collated from every house reveals that communities are apprehensive about getting vaccinated since there are several rumors  and misinformation doing the rounds about the vaccine. 

Community Workers collecting data and mobilizing communities on COVID-19 Vaccination

Recognizing the need to educate communities and bust the vaccination myths, Shelter Associates has been conducting COVID-19 vaccination drives in the informal settlements in the cities of Pune, Kolhapur, Navi Mumbai and Thane to support the City Municipal Corporations and partner organisations. The broad objectives of the campaign are:

  • To mobilize communities to follow COVID Appropriate Behaviour and spread awareness through formal and informal activities as part of risk communication and community engagement strategy. 
  • To reduce vaccine hesitancy and increase vaccine willingness and registration in the informal settlements
  • To distribute WASH supplies such as masks, sanitizers, wash basins at Community toilets, etc. which would ultimately contribute towards Infection prevention and control. 
  • Capacity building of community workers, self-help groups, community health workers, etc. who are equal contributors to the vaccination drive.  
  • To monitor and evaluate a system of evidence-based planning based on assessments for Covid response and preparedness.
COVID-19 Vaccination Camps being organised in the informal Settlements
Health Officers vaccinating the residents of informal settlements

The expertise and experience of Shelter Associates in bringing about a behavioural change among communities will go a long way in busting the myths and spreading positive information. Such vaccination drives are vital in  ensuring that maximum people residing in informal settlements get vaccinated and lead a healthy and virus-free life. 

Reference: Shelter Associates, https://www.cdc.gov/

NO MASK NO TASK – An effort to encourage 100% mask use

It has been proven by medical experts and researchers across the world that the use of masks can slow down the spread of Corona Virus which is highly infectious and spreading rapidly across the globe.  It spreads mainly through respiratory droplets; and therefore, a good and correctly  placed mask not only protects oneself but also from spreading it to others. Having said that time and again, a large section of the population, also those living in the informal settlements are very casual and carefree about wearing masks, more so because they have a lot of misconceptions regarding COVID19 and sometimes due to the false beliefs that it won’t affect their locality/community. Although the lockdown has imposed strict restrictions on the movement of residents,  and strict code of conduct for business and commercial areas  across cities, there is a certain laxity in following the precautionary measures across all strata of the society.

Shelter Associates, an NGO working around the implementation of WASH in the informal settlements of Maharashtra, even during such challenging conditions, is mobilising slum communities around  household toilets  and COVID19 prevention. Observations from the communities suggest an urgent need to spread awareness on the use of masks  and its importance. Whether  buying regular grocery items, going to the medical store for medicines or visiting the community toilet; most of the residents prefer to go out without masks for their daily chores. Another thing noticed is that many people are wearing masks, but only partially covering the mouth and nose , which entirely defeats the purpose of wearing one. Recognizing the seriousness of the situation, Shelter Associates has initiated the ‘No Mask No Task’ campaign with the sole objective of creating awareness on 100% mask use in the informal settlements of Maharashtra. The campaign is active in the selected slum settlements of Navi Mumbai and Kolhapur.

Community Volunteers mobilizing residents on 100% mask use at public places

As a part of this campaign, the community volunteers visit door to door to educate families to use masks while moving out of their homes; inform shopkeepers and street vendors to strictly enforce the use of mask during transactions; communicate with CTB Caretakers to prevent residents from using the toilets unless they wear a proper mask while entering. For the success of this campaign, the community volunteers are trained extensively on COVID19 background, its spread and preventive measures. Unless fully convinced, they will not be in a position to effectively communicate the need for a mask, therefore SA has taken extra efforts in briefing communities and motivating people to follow related precautionary steps.

Informative posters being displayed within the slum vicinity

To make the campaign more effective, community volunteers have also printed eye-catching and informative posters while some created handmade posters in places where printing is not possible due to the lockdown. These posters are displayed at prominent places around the settlement such as shops, busy corners, Community Toilets etc., creating continuous visibility and making immediate visual impressions on its onlookers. The posters have been reaching a wide audience, especially in these densely packed slum areas where many people are likely to see them. Supporting the efforts of Shelter Associates, responsible residents within the community also play a pivotal role in the advocacy of mask use by creating posters and spreading awareness in the interest of other residents.

And now that we all are expecting to hit the third wave COVID19 which is projected to be much more harmful than the present wave, there exists a need for extensive mobilization where individuals are educated on the significance of mask use, within their communities. While it takes a lot of effort to create behavioural change among the people, if we don’t fight this war now, we will definitely fall victim to this pandemic. If a majority of people behave responsibly, we will certainly minimise the impact of this life-threatening catastrophe. Let’s be safe and keep others safe!

A small boy from the community displays a poster made by him