Vaccinating people with disabilities in Kashmir
In Kashmir, a disability welfare organisation is ensuring that people with disabilities are not left behind.
- 16 March 2022
- 4 min read
- by Kaleem Geelani
As much-needed vaccinations against COVID-19 kicked off across India, Javaid Ahmad Tak, a disability rights activist based in Kashmir, was keeping a keen eye on the vaccination for his community.
To his concern, a few months into the campaign, Tak found that many people with disabilities across different parts of Kashmir were being left out of the vaccination process due to their inability to physically go to the vaccination centres.
“This welfare organisation reached out and was a saviour in my pursuit for vaccination. I’m fully vaccinated now, and it’s only because of their timely support.”
Even though, in 2020, the Jammu and Kashmir government launched mass door-to-door vaccination campaigns to quell vaccine hesitancy and cover the maximum number of people with the vaccination programme, people with disabilities weren’t getting vaccinated and felt helpless.
Humanity Welfare Organisation Helpline, a disability welfare organisation in the Southern area of Kashmir, headed by the wheelchair-bound Tak, embarked on a campaign to ensure the vaccination of the disability community. In less than a year their efforts and support have ensured that more disabled people are getting vaccinated.
“For months, I couldn’t access the vaccine. The local health centre made no efforts to vaccinate us or consider our disabled condition. It felt like access to vaccination was so far and challenging, and just waiting seemed to be the only option left,” says 48-year-old Manzoor Badaam, who has been bedridden for more than a decade.
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But then, Badaam says, his wait came to an end.
“This welfare organisation reached out and was a saviour in my pursuit for vaccination. They provided transport and helped me get to the vaccination centre, which was at a local magistrate office. I’m fully vaccinated now, and it’s only because of their timely support. Such heart-warming gestures keep us alive and afloat in these testing times,” he adds.
Like Badam, there are hundreds of people with disabilities people in Kashmir for whom access to vaccination has been equally fraught with challenges and difficulties. Humanity Welfare Organisation Helpline is providing much-needed assistance to help them get vaccinated.
From petitioning the high court to press for their prioritised vaccination and facilitating homebound vaccination to providing transport assistance, reaching out to higher ups in each district in Kashmir with a list of unvaccinated persons and constant follow-ups with each one of them, Tak’s organisation is doing all it can to draw the attention of government and ensure their vaccination.
Twenty-five-year-old Rayees Ahmad Mir says that these strenuous efforts have rekindled a hope among disabled groups and accelerated vaccination for them.
“Due to our inability to move, we often lack required attention and consideration in certain situations. In this case, at one point, I'd thought that vaccination was so far and will reach me late, as always. But it arrived sooner than expected. I was finally vaccinated last month, all thanks to this organisation and their timely help.
“For people like us, this is nothing less than a much-needed succour and reassurance amid the deadly times of COVID-19,” adds Mir, a resident of Anantnag district in South Kashmir.
In some far-flung and hilly areas of Kashmir, though, vaccination for people with disabilities still remains a distant dream.
“My spinal cord is damaged and I’m immobile. It has deprived me of vaccination for a long time. No one has come to vaccinate me till now,” says 50-year-old, Mushtaq Ahmad Deedad, a resident of Panchgam Nad, a remote village in the Kund area of Qazigund, in South Kashmir.
Tak, who also runs a school for disabled children, says that there needs to be a mass census of people with disabilities in Kashmir against the backdrop of COVID-19 vaccination.
“This will ensure their speedy and prioritised vaccination, and minimise the delays and obstacles. This will also help in future prospects,” he adds.
“With the help of members, we prepared a database of unvaccinated disabled persons and followed up with them to meet our vaccination goal. We involved the judiciary, government, health department and others to press for their vaccination. In some cases, we provided them with their details and location to achieve the vaccination and in some cases, we supplied the transport to carry the persons to nearest vaccination centres. Our efforts have paid off and will continue to remain there until all of them are vaccinated.”
In 2020, Tak was awarded Padma Shree, India’s fourth highest civilian award.
Follow Kaleem Geelani on Twitter: @kaleem_geelani