Welcome to Vol.6 of 'Behaviour Change Matters’. In this edition, we share how a viral music video is encouraging people to vaccinate in Tamil Nadu. New behavioural insights show there is more to be done in rural areas and focus on women for COVID-19 vaccination. Our meet our team features Nizam from Rajasthan state office sharing his experience in global emergencies.

Sid Shrestha
Chief - C4D, UNICEF India

4 OCTOBER 2021
Still from the music video 'Vaccine Podunga Makka, Vaccine Podunga', September 2021

The silence of Chennai mornings is broken from a rather unexpected source: A battery operated solid waste disposal vehicle wading through the streets with the song, ‘Vaccine Podunga Makka, Vaccine Podunga’ (get vaccinated folks, get vaccinated). The song in Tamil language was released by UNICEF and its partners mid- September ahead of the mega vaccination drive and quickly went viral and has become the brand of the campaign.

The song features young people and elderly, men and women, schoolteachers and nurses, fruit vendors and white collar workers, urging people to shun the hesitation and vaccinate. It has been used to attract the public to the ‘Mega Vaccination Drive’ which involves thousands of special vaccination centres being set up on Sundays.

The song helped many identify where the camp was being held. Lakshmi Devi, a 41-year-old resident of Chennai said she had heard there was a vaccination drive, but didn’t know where it was happening in her neighbourhood. “When I went vegetable shopping that day, I heard the 'Vaccine Podunga Makka’ song playing at a school nearby. I followed the sound and found myself at a vaccination camp. That’s how I got my first shot.”

Dr J Nirmalson, Joint Director, Health Education Bureau, said the success of the song has taken them by surprise. “We plan to use the song in our upcoming mass vaccination drives as well”. It has been widely shared on social media by those engaged in the health-education sector. “Our aim was to create a buzz around vaccination. We brainstormed with our partners and decided to develop a music video which inspires people to shun their fears and get vaccinated,” said Sugata Roy, Communication Specialist, UNICEF.  

The song is being broadcast via non-digital platforms such as the municipal trash collection vans that pick up trash from neighbourhoods every morning.  The vans are equipped with a speaker and the song plays on loop. It has gained popularity in Tamil Nadu’s other cities as well. Vishnu Swaroop, a resident of Coimbatore said when he first heard the song he could not make out the lyrics. The next time the municipal vehicle came around playing the song, he made it a point listen well. “To my surprise it was a vaccination awareness song in a folk tune.” He adds the catchy tune makes people stop and listen.

The mega vaccination drive in Tamil Nadu over three Sundays in September has resulted in a significant number of people getting vaccinated. To date about 60% people in the state have received the first dose of the vaccine and 20% have received the second dose. Initiatives such as this music video is finding a way into people’s hearts and leading to the vaccination centers to make sure everyone is protected.  

Findings indicate women, marginalised communities and rural populations need more access to information on COVID-19 vaccine. Representational image, Chitrakoot, Uttar Pradesh, UNICEF India/2020/Prashanth Vishwanathan

New round of COVID-19 communication research commissioned in August 2021 by UNICEF India found that intention to vaccinating is high and that there is an improved trust in government vaccination and communication efforts, compared to earlier research conducted in April 2021. While in Round-1, 81% trusted information provided by the government on the COVID-19 vaccine, this rose to 91% in Round-2. Trust in efforts made by the government on the COVID-19 vaccine rose from 79% to 90%.

The study shows there is good flow of correct information through trusted sources. There is openness among communities to adopt the new normal. Mass media, especially TV, remains the top trusted source of information.

In Round-1 of the research, findings showed that people have an intent to take the vaccine. Round-2 data shows good uptake of the vaccine. This has been the highest in Andhra Pradesh where 41% respondents had taken both doses of the vaccine, much above the other states where 16-22% had taken both doses. An analysis of the 8% who said they do not intend to take the vaccine shows 60% were rural, and many of them were women, belonged to marginalised communities and had an education below primary level. Primary reason stated for not taking the vaccine even when it was available was ‘wait and see’. This is an increase from R1 to R2. There is a decline in concerns like side effects of vaccine and its effectiveness. Reasons for not being able to take the vaccine when intent was there include non-availability of slots, and no vaccine centre nearby. This challenge was more in rural areas.

To understand if the community is getting sufficient information about COVID-19 that is clear and actionable, a recall question of last week was asked. The number of people who said they heard nothing about COVID-19 in the last week has increased. This shows a gap in flow of information. Overall low risk perception in the community continues to be a challenge. Washing hands with soap or sanitiser is the most common protective practice. The study explains there is lesser number of people avoiding social gatherings compared to Round-1, which poses a risk for new infections, especially in the low vaccinated communities.

Television continues to be the most trusted source of information followed by print media. Social media as a trusted source of information has declined when compared with the first round. Findings indicate rural areas need to be prioritised in terms of access to information as well as supply issues. Women, marginalised communities, and those with no education or less education require more attention in terms of access to correct information.

                                                                                                                                                               Photo credit: BBC 
Nizamuddin, or Nizam as he goes by, is a development communications practitioner whose professional experience spans over several health and development issues including public health emergencies, disease outbreak and disaster risk mitigation. In 2008, he served as part of the UNICEF Uttar Pradesh team working to curb the widespread outbreak of polio cases in India while also supporting interventions in a few districts in Bihar and Maharashtra. “Engaging with faith leaders was a strategy UNICEF pioneered during the polio response, one that led to monumental gains for the country” he recalls.

Nizam also possesses considerable experience working across health systems in developing nations. In 2015, he worked to alleviate Ebola in Sierra Leone, West Africa. A few years later, he helped establish a system to prevent disease outbreak in Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. More recently, he was part of the COVID-19 response in Mongolia and currently works with UNICEF Rajasthan.

Nizam believes challenging assignments alter our perspective and the barriers of culture, language and limited resources foster invaluable learning. “The Ebola experience proved very useful when looking at the COVID-19 response in India. Although Ebola was different in a lot of respects, it had a 90% mortality rate. I had already seen lockdown in West Africa, so I knew what it meant during the pandemic here.”

Currently, Nizam is working to strengthen development communication interventions among marginalized nomadic groups in the border areas of Rajasthan: “There is scope to make a difference here and promising opportunities to forge meaningful partnerships”, he adds. Ask him what he does for fun, and he says reading and music are his main leisure activities.


Global Handwashing Day 15 October:  The theme for GHD 2021 is 'Our Future is at Hand – Let’s Move Forward Together'.  The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how critical the practice of handwashing can be in preventing the transmission of life-threatening diseases. Hand washing with soap is known to prevent diarrhoea and acute respiratory illnesses, syndromes responsible for the largest number of childhood deaths globally. Global Handwashing Day 2021 calls for collaboration between governments, donors, the private sector, healthcare and educational institutions, academic bodies and researchers, and public health advocates to drive policy and behavior change for improved hand hygiene uptake.
Resource materials available include an
India Fact Sheet, Videos with Handwashing as key message, IEC and print materials for handwashing with soap. Also available is the Global Factsheet.
Festival package on observing COVID Appropriate Behaviour: The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has released a package of communication materials reinforcing COVID Appropriate Behaviour ahead of the festival season.

'Role of community radios in India', opinion article by Brijender Singh Panwar, President, Community Radio Association of India, notes the pivotal role community radio stations across the country are playing during the pandemic. The Pioneer, September 2021 

'Odisha to become the first Indian state to include millets, pulses, vegetables in mid day meals and ration scheme': Feature article on how the Odisha government has decided to include pulses, millets, oilseeds, fruits and vegetables in its government welfare programmes, including meals offered at anganwadis and mid day meals at schools. Local recipes, millet laddus, sprouted green gram, crop diversification, women empowerment to be the focus of the initiative. Shivani Gupta, Gaon Connection, September 2021

IEC WAREHOUSE: U-Report assessments on COVID-19, community assessments and  formative studies done to inform Risk Communication and Community Engagement for vaccination have been added. These include Community based monitoring (CBM)  to assess impact of pandemic on vulnerable groups; Study to assess effectiveness of the RCCE interventions and assess stigma and discrimination related issues; Observation based assessment of the adherence to COVID appropriate behaviours in DelhiUNICEF India, 2021

The documents disseminated by Behaviour Change Matters
do not necessarily reflect an official position by UNICEF.

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