More than two crore teenagers in the 15-18 age group have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine since the drive began on January 3, 2022. While the country is on the cusp of the COVID-19 third wave, the government has the critical task of vaccinating children not only in the given age group but in the younger age groups in the coming months.
Equitable access to suitable and effective vaccines is crucial to curb the rising tide of cases; also important is to address vaccine hesitancy within communities and help them overcome their fears towards vaccination.
Sonali, a 15-year-old girl from Himachal Pradesh’s Solan district, was devastated after losing her best friend to COVID on January 5, 2021. The tragic incident frightened her as there was no vaccine back then for her age group. She has been living in a state of fear ever since.
With the support of Mondelez India, Save the Children India launched a vaccination drive to reach the vulnerable population of Baddi in Himachal Pradesh and provide access to scientific, evidence-based information on COVID-19 vaccinations in a way that the community understood and dispelled any misinformation around it.
During the door-to-door visits to identify the people who hadn’t been vaccinated, the field team was introduced to Sonali and her family. After her friend’s loss, Sonali was scared of getting infected with COVID-19, at the same time, she was reluctant to get vaccinated when the drive was rolled out on January 3. She feared that she would be suffering from unbearable pain and fever after taking the shot.
With the support of her parents, the Save the Children team made her aware that it’s common to experience mild to moderate side effects after getting the vaccine and convinced her to take the first shot.
On January 8, she got her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. She informed the team that she experienced mild fever and pain in her arm where the injection was given only for two days. After recovering, she has started motivating her friends to get the vaccine.
To increase the uptake of the two doses of the COVID-19 vaccines to over 90% in the communities (in intervention areas) by the end of March 2022, Save the Children India has launched a program to address vaccine hesitancy by way of outreach through effective communication for preparing children and their parents/caregivers for vaccination of children.
Save the Children, India has also started the distribution of COVID kits, including masks and sanitizers among children in its intervention states.