COVID19 is still stalking the world and the urban poor residing in informal settlements are struggling to get vaccinated. There are various misconceptions and myths regarding COVID19,and hence there is a pressing need for widespread awareness campaigns to dispel these fears. There is a paucity of information related to vaccination processes which has resulted in low vaccine coverage in slum communities. As a result, it is often assumed that residents in informal settlements are reluctant to receive vaccinations. More than 75% of individuals living in the slums of Pune, Kolhapur, Thane and Navi Mumbai who are above 18 years old are eager to get vaccinated, according to Shelter Associates’ household level survey results. However, vaccination coverage is low. The stumbling block is the online registration process and vaccine availability. In Maharashtra only 30% of the population is vaccinated for the first dose and only 1/3rd of them is vaccinated with the second dose. The lack of adherence to Covid Appropriate Behavior(CAB) guidelines, combined with a lower level of vaccination coverage, are key contributors to the rise of COVID-19 infection in the state. Our focus should be on an effective community-based behavioral change strategy that clears up any vaccination misunderstandings and facilitates online registrations along with community vaccination camps, as well as promoting CAB.

In house GIS Analyst working on informal settlement

Shelter Associates’ In-house GIS Data and field teams play a very important role in driving the vaccination process. The process followed by the team are as below:

  • The team of GIS Analysts map the selected slums of the 4 cities of Maharashtra with the help of a GIS based software. 
  • Plus Codes (Digital addresses codes) are generated for each house 
  • On-field community workers at Shelter Associates physically visit each and every slum house and collect raw data through household surveys covering the vaccination details and the families interested for vaccination
  • After this process, the data is integrated on a GIS platform and spatially queried. .

The spatial maps generated by the GIS team include details of the number of people who have completed their vaccinations and those who are left behind. Accordingly, detailed planning is done to drive the vaccination camp. Shelter Associates plan on how things can be taken forward to drive the vaccination process smoothly. To register the unregistered for the first dose of vaccine, volunteers residing in slum communities are trained so that none of them are missed out and all get vaccinated. 

Vaccination Tokens are been distributed

Once the slum pocket gets finalised, the community co-ordinators at Shelter Associates distribute tokens to the registered individuals. These tokens are then presented at the time of Vaccination Camps for a smooth implementation of the vaccination process. Upon further cross-verification, the pre-registered and spot registered individuals are inoculated by the health officers present during the camp.

Till September 2021, Shelter Associates helped more than 4431 people get vaccinated in Pune and Kolhapur through 16 and 9 vaccination camps respectively. Shelter Associates is making full efforts to raise awareness around the importance of vaccination  through a rigorous process of primary surveys and data collation, mobilizing the community people and setting up vaccination camps.

Spatial Map of Ganjimal Settlement (Kolhapur) post vaccination

This map is created through spatial data, post vaccination of Ganjimal Settlement of Kolhapur Municipal Corporation. Shelter Associates is rigorously  working on the other slums to cater the needy and help them get vaccinated through ground level survey and setting up vaccination camps.



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,