The doctors trekking the Himalayas to vaccinate its remote villages

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To visit the Indian village of Malana deep in the Himalayas, a COVID-19 vaccination team scrambled over a landslide that blocked a road the day before, broke a retaining wall and then further down a river valley. Started the three hour trek above.

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Despite the hostile terrain, the northern state of Himachal Pradesh, where Malana is located, earlier this month became the first state in India to administer at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose to all its adults.

The steep topography by health workers walking for hours or days to reach remote villages was one challenge and religious beliefs another, as the tourism-dependent state attempted to vaccinate its nearly five million adults.


In September, a team of five led by District Health Officer Dr Atul Gupta set out on its way to Malana to deliver the second vaccine dose.

Blocked by a landslide, he left his vehicle with two blue vaccine boxes hanging over his shoulders to scoff at the rubble, climbed the wall and then accompanied a Reuters photographer to the trailhead leading to the village. gone.

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Before starting the trek to the village, Gupta and his team placed the boxes on a gondola attached to the pulley to carry medicine across the river valley separating Malana from the road. This significantly eased their walk as they set out to cross the gorge which falls about 100 meters below.

While resting on the trek, Gupta said that to persuade Malana’s 1,100 adults to take their first shot, its district chief had priests invoke a local Hindu deity. He said this helped health workers to employ 700 people in three days.

When Gupta’s team reached the village, about three dozen people lined up right in front of an ancient temple to take their second shot at the deity.

“People were initially afraid to take the vaccine, worried that they would fall ill or die,” said village head Rajuram, who gave just one name, sitting near the carved wooden and concrete walls of the temple. “Then I took it and others gathered up the courage too.”

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur has attributed the success of the state’s vaccination campaign to village-to-village campaign, his decision to involve local level politicians and the efforts of the central government to give priority to vaccination in tourist places.

India wants to have almost all of its adults vaccinated by December, with two-thirds given at least one dose and less than a quarter given two doses. Thakur wants Himachal Pradesh to be the fastest state to reach the two-dose milestone with a target of November.



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