Long Distances & Discrimination: UP Villagers on Chasing COVID-19 Vaccine
"We travel long distances, stand in queues but are not able to get vaccinated," says a resident of Udaypur village.
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"We travel long distances, stand in queues but are not able to get vaccinated. There is no COVID vaccine centre in our village and travelling everyday to the other centres isn't feasible."Sheela Devi, Housewife
Sheela Devi is a resident of Udaypur village in Uttar Pradesh's Varanasi district and, like many other villagers in her village and the neighbouring ones, she has only one demand – to get vaccinated.
But she says that travelling long distances, waiting for hours, standing in queues, makes it difficult for them to get the vaccine. She even alleges caste-based discrimination at the vaccine centres.
"Whoever has money, like the Thakurs and others, they come in their cars and get vaccinated while we are asked to stand in queues," she says.
The same story was reiterated by several other villagers that we spoke to in the nearby villages of Danganj, Mahada, and Mangolepur.
Meera Devi, a leader of the local women's body in Udaypur village, also alleges that the centres prioritise people from the Upper Castes over them.
"When we went to get vaccinated, the doctors told us that the vaccine is only for the Pandits (Brahmins) and that we can't get it. They said that they will vaccinate us when more vaccines arrive," she claims.
'Nearly 5,000 Villagers Haven't Been Vaccinated'
Rajai Raam, the head of Mahada village says that nearly 5,000 people in these villages haven't been vaccinated because of the same reason.
"We stand in a queue but sometimes we don’t get a token and the people return without it. If an old person goes to get the vaccine, stands in a queue but still doesn't get the vaccine then how will it help?"Rajaai Ram, Village Head
He says that the authorities should think about setting up a camp somewhere nearby for three-four villages so that everyone can get vaccinated.
Rachna Devi, a resident of Udaypur village and a student, says that the problem isn't just that the centre is far away but also that the people vaccinating the villagers often ask for money.
"The centre is really far away and whenever we go, our turn never comes. Sometimes it comes after 10 days. And if it does, then they ask us to get money or else they won’t vaccinate us."Rachna Devi, Student
However, RB Yadava, the medical superintendent of Cholapur, has denied these allegations. Most villagers from Danganj, Udaypur, Mahada, and Mangolepur visit the vaccination centre in Cholapur.
As of 23 September, nearly 8 percent people in Uttar Pradesh had been fully vaccinated. Experts and doctors argue that vaccination is possibly the only way out of the pandemic, but will this divide and inequitable distribution of vaccines make the task at hand more difficult?
(Reporting: Shabnam Begum for Video Volunteers.)
(This story has been published as a part of The Quint’s COVID-19 fact-check project targeting rural women.)
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