Substantial vaccine hesitancy in urban slum communities of Pune and Mumbai, finds survey

Unavailability of vaccines at centres, inability to afford vaccines at private facilities and difficulty in convincing family decision makers to allow vaccination were other barriers.

Fifty one per cent of unvaccinated residents in slums in Mumbai and Pune were hesitant to take the Covid-19 vaccine, according to a survey of over 3,600 slum residents by seven NGOs which tried to understand the barriers towards vaccination in urban slum communities of the two cities.

The Akanksha Foundation, which works towards educating children from low-income communities and runs schools in collaboration with the government in Mumbai and Pune, conducted the survey with six other NGOs. Qualitative and quantitative studies were undertaken with Apnalaya, FMCH, Magic Bus, SNEHA, Teach for India and iTeach Schools to conduct dialogues with urban poor communities to understand the barriers and challenges they face in availing the vaccine

In May and June this year, the organisations reached out to 3,675 individuals across 18 urban slum communities in Mumbai and 20 urban slum communities in Pune. As many as 56% of the respondents were women, while 44% were men. As of early June 2021, 19% of the respondents surveyed had received their first dose of the vaccine, close to the current national average vaccination rate of 18.86%.

But by June 24, Maharashtra had vaccinated 2.3 crore of its population with at least one dose. This, when calculated against the 18+ population of Maharashtra, takes the vaccination arte to 32%, showing a substantial disparity between surveyed communities and the state.

The survey revealed that 51% of the non-vaccinated individuals reported being hesitant about getting vaccinated. A deep dive into the reasons for vaccination hesitancy showed that there was a fear of side effects from the vaccine and not having enough information about the vaccine.

Unavailability of vaccines at centres, inability to afford vaccines at private facilities and difficulty in convincing family decision makers to allow vaccination were other barriers.

CEO of Akanksha Foundation, Saurabh Taneja, said the observations were alarming and needed immediate intervention. “We have formulated a core team to address these issues and have suggested action points for curbing the hesitancy and building positive vaccine awareness,” Taneja said, adding they would take up an awareness campaign across these cities.

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