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On 19 June 2021, in a story titled 'No COVID-19 Testing, Vaccines for Gypsy Narikuravars in Tamil Nadu', The Quint showed how the indigenous nomadic tribes, living in Tamil Nadu's Thiruvallur, have not been provided with basic amenities during the coronavirus pandemic. The municipal corporation officials had come to test the people here for COVID only during the first wave of the pandemic, in 2020. No vaccination camps had been conducted and this had accelerated their fears.
As soon as the story was published, Dr Alby John, Collector of Tiruvallur took note of the issue. On 24 June, his team conducted a vaccination drive in the hamlet.
Vaccination Camp Commences
"On the first day, when my team visited the community, nobody came forward. On the next day, one or two persons got vaccinated. They have now told us to come on Tuesday, and have agreed to get vaccinated," Dr John told The Quint.
"“We also decided to meet Narikuravars living in the nearby hamlets; about 650 of them. In the last three days, we have vaccinated over 65 people. There is a lot of misinformation circulating on WhatsApp which is why they are afraid. We believe vaccinating their own people will have a snowballing effect and could convince more people to get vaccinated.”" - Dr Alby John, Collector of Tiruvallur
The people here are hesitant to take the COVID vaccine because they fear that it could cause instant death.
Prasanth, who lives in Kalaignar Nagar told The Quint, "Yes they did come but we are still scared. What if we die? It is not necessary that I should survive after the vaccine just because you did. We are worried. Our bigger concern is actually the hygiene of the place we live in. Also, the government could help us with our daily needs."
"“We are considering this as a separate vertical as this is not your regular vaccination drive where you set up camp and people stand in queue to get vaccinated. This is different and requires a lot of persuasion and a lot of effort from our side. But we are considering it as a challenge. We should be able to complete the vaccination in another 15 to 20 days.”" - Dr Alby John, Collector of Tiruvallur
Vaccine hesitancy is not the only problem here. The Naikuravars said that their livelihoods have come to a halt due to the lockdown.
During the second wave of the pandemic, they said, they had received provisions only twice and have not been able to afford three meals a day.
Basic Needs to be Met
“We were focussing more on the medical sector during this second wave of the pandemic. But we will look into this and provide them with basic provisions and other essentials," Dr John assured.
The Narikuravars had told The Quint that no corporation official or health inspector had visited their locality to provide basic amenities. The Collector assured that he will send a team of officials at the earliest.
Another prominent issue in the community is a sewage stream, overflowing with garbage, that is flowing adjacent to their homes. There have been several dengue cases in the last few years and the families here said at least one person in every family has a respiratory illness.
The local administration said they will look into this at the earliest.
. Read more on COVID-19 by The Quint.The Quint Impact: Vaccine Drive Held for Gypsy Narikuravars in TNNo COVID-19 Testing, Vaccines for Narikuravars in Tamil Nadu . Read more on COVID-19 by The Quint.