Inoculating The Innocuous, Deep In Kashmir Woods

by Tasavur Mushtaq

From Wuhan in China to Weyan in Kashmir, as Coronavirus stormed around the globe, the contours of life changed completely. Unparalleled in the history of medical science, the vaccine development against the virus got unprecedented attention with all people across the continents waiting for a positive result with equal desperation.

A health worker collects a nasal swab sample from a Kashmiri shepherd woman for Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) diagnosis, in Doodhpathri in Budgam district on June 9, 2021. The government started a door-to-door vaccination drive to stop the spread of Coronavirus. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

Following months of uncertainty, finally, when the vaccine arrived it was a joy. But, the masses had their own apprehensions. Fighting on multiple fronts of vaccine roll-out, reaching out to a larger population, and curbing negative campaigns, the administration rolled out vaccination drive in a phased manner.

A medic administers a dose of the Covid19 vaccine to a Kashmiri shepherd woman during a special vaccination drive in Doodhpathri in Central Kashmir Budgam district on June 9, 2021. The spot is one of the favourite destinations for day picnickers. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

Initially covering front-line workers and more vulnerable groups, the process passed to other groups as well. However, reaching out to areas with difficult accessibility was a challenge. But working in coherence with other departments, the health department put in efforts to trek the difficult terrains and cover the mountain population. In between, Weyan village in Kashmir’s Bandipora district became the first village in the country to record 100% inoculation of all people over 18 years for Covid-19.

A doctor and health workers cross a wooden bridge during a Covid-19 vaccination drive in Doodhpathri in Central Kashmir Budgam district on June 9, 2021. The government started a door-to-door vaccination drive to stop the spread of Coronavirus. This meadow is one of the favourite destinations for day picnickers. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

The other parts of Kashmir also witnessed a similar response where the administration reached out to the people, instead of people coming to vaccination centres. The drive was called “vaccine on wheels”. Besides, the health workers trek long distances of several kilometers with not well-defined routes to reach destinations were difficult terrains.

A team of health workers returning from a day-long vaccination drive into Doodpathri woods on June 9, 2021. Reaching out to the herdsmen deep in the woods required even crossing the hill streams on their own. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

There was initial hesitancy, and many videos went viral on social media. One was of the wife lamenting why her husband took the jab and the other was a person swearing upon everything that he won’t take it. However, later officials intervened and Abdul Rashid was convinced to go for vaccination and also advised others to do so.

But, as the officials continue their campaign, the more difficult part is the population they reach out to is less interested in happenings around the globe. Isolated from world events, they live life in their own way, without the internet and information.

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