Savita Kale, 23 years old Bhil tribal from Alegoan Paga village of Shirur Taluka in Pune has a one- and-half-year old baby. Savita, who works as labour at farms and lives in two thatched huts at the tribal hamlet, has no idea whether her kid is vaccinated or not. She said, “ The doctor had given him an injection a few months ago, but I am not aware whether the injection was a vaccination or for the fever he had. Otherwise, we have never taken him for vaccination; no nurse has come to our house either.”
Alegoan Phata has over 30 kids around the of age 60 months or younger, and most of their parents are not even aware of the importance of vaccination.
Similarly, Sangita Lombole, a 25-year-old housewife from Vadar tribe, one of the nomadic communities, stays in a hut in Ekta Nagar slum in Pashan of Pune with her husband. She has two children, and the younger one is a year old. Sangita, whose husband works to break stones at road-making projects, said, “I am not aware that the babies should be given vaccination. Besides, here, I cannot afford to visit a doctor.”
As per the National Family Health Survey, only 56.3% of the babies (12 to 23 months) are fully vaccinated (BCG, measles and three doses of each of Polio and DPT). Even though the state is one of the most developed and has higher literacy rates, the percentage is much lower than the national average, which is 62%.
About 90% of the children in the state have received BCG against the national rate of 91.9%. Around 87% of them have received measles vaccination. However, only 67% of them have received three doses of polio, which is lower than the national percentage of 72.8%. About 74.9% have got three doses of DPT as opposed to the national level at 78.4%. And only 60.8% have got Hepatitis B vaccine against the national average of 62.4%.
The Umbarwadi tribal hamlet in Igatpuri Taluka of Nashik district can be reached after an hour of trekking uphill from Igatpuri. The village has over twenty babies below the age of five. However, the tribals there say that most of them are not vaccinated as primary health centre does not reach them, and for them to reach the PHC is a big task.
Geeta Ughade, an illiterate tribal who has been helping pregnant women deliver babies for decades, said, “rarely any health professional visits the hamlet to give vaccinations such as Polio. Earlier, nurses or helpers would regularly come to check the patients and vaccinate the babies. But I don’t remember anyone visiting the hamlet in the past few months.”
Bhagwan Madhe, a social activist of Sramjivi Sanghatana that works for tribals in Nashik, Palghar and Thane, said, “many hamlets are in forests where one needs to walk a few kms. So health officials don’t bother to reach them.”
On being asked, Dr Archana Patil, director, Maharashtra State Family Welfare Bureau, said she would look into this.