Health workers of Madhya Pradesh collaborate with Women of Self-Help Groups to improve COVID-19 vaccination coverage
The central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh has a population of 87 million, of whom 52 million live in rural areas. The Madhya Pradesh Rural Livelihoods Mission (MPSRLM) under the Ministry of Rural Development supports nearly 39 million rural households by connecting at least one woman from each household to a self-help group (SHG), enabling her to access loan and create livelihoods.
In the initial months of introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine in India, the uptake of vaccine was marred by several challenges. There was widespread misinformation on social media, questioning the effectiveness of the vaccine and creating fear of side-effects. To mitigate these, the Department of Health reached out to other departments to enlist their cooperation and use their platforms and improve vaccination coverage. The Technical Assistance team of PCI, embedded within MPSRLM, responded to the call by facilitating a connection between State Health Mission and State Livelihoods Mission with the promise to mobilize communities through women’s groups. After formalization of the convergence between the two departments, necessary circulars and directives were issued to the ground staff. Collaboration of this kind between these departments is unprecedented. The PCI team also coordinated with the premier state institute of medicine, AIIMS, Bhopal to hold a series of webinars on COVID appropriate behaviours, home-based/local level management of migrants, mitigating vaccine hesitancy and ensuring vaccination for all to improve awareness among ground staff of the entire state. Virtual training sessions were organized, and joint micro-plans developed.
Supported by the trained staff, awareness generation activities were conducted by women of self-help groups in their village to nudge their families and neighbors to get the vaccination. Women champions led by example by taking the vaccine first. Besides the commonly used IEC methods like wall writing and sloganeering, the women used especially designed digital aids such as videos and digital posters. They also leveraged local traditions, by inviting friends and neighbors for vaccination by giving a handful of yellow rice at their home. In hard-to reach areas, the ‘Aajeevika’ Express, vehicles, that are managed by SHG members were used to reach the beneficiaries to vaccination centres.
Through these measures, the state of Madhya Pradesh created a model of vaccination in the country with 98% SHG women and their household members covered with Dose 1 and 93% covered with Dose 2. The Mission Director of State Health Mission felicitated the MP SRLM leadership and PCI team at a public event at Bhopal, the capital city of MP. The State Health Mission proposes to continue this collaboration by engaging SHG women to motivate village families for routine immunization of children as well.
Author: Alok Kundu, Senior State Program Officer, TA to NRLM project, Madhya Pradesh