Anandavalli, 80, is partially paralysed and under the state's palliative care for the last four years. Her only source of income is Rs 1,600, a pension she gets every month, and her daughter is a daily wager. On Thursday, a medical team inoculated her with the first Covid vaccine dose at her home.
"I am really relieved that this medical team has come to our home. My mother's condition and the family situation are not such that we could have taken her to the hospital for vaccination," Sheela, the beneficiary's daughter, said.
Many beneficiaries of palliative care come from the economically weaker sections of the society.
Across Kerala, medical teams have a mammoth task cut out for them - to vaccinate around 1,68,000 bedridden palliative care patients at their homes. For now, around 1,000 have been given their first jabs over the week. Of the 14 Kerala districts, four haven't started the project yet.
With local self-governance bodies like a panchayat's community or primary health centre as the nodal point, each medical team comprises at least two palliative care nurses, a junior health inspector, an Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) worker and a local body representative. The ASHA workers and panchayat-level elected representatives are a crucial link between the medical care givers and the beneficiaries.
"We already have the list of these patients. We have already sorted out the adverse reactions, drug reactions and usage of anticoagulants among them. In this panchayat we have around 100 bedridden palliative care patients, and we should be able to cover them in 3 days, for their first dose," Dr George Mathew, medical officer for the Palode Community Health Centre, said.
Two medical teams are operating from this community centre. Bindhu, 45, and Arya, 26, work in one of the two teams as vaccinators.
"Sometimes when we think of what we are doing, we feel overwhelmed. It's a privilege to be serving like this amid a pandemic. We are late in providing vaccines for them at their homes because of a shortage. But now finally, we have started vaccinating them at homes," says Bindhu, a palliative care nurse.
The doorstep vaccination drive for the bedridden is being implemented with the help of 1,000 nurses, 16,000 volunteers and 26,000 Asha volunteers. The elected members of local bodies are also at the forefront of the fight against the coronavirus.
In Kerala, around 24% of the population has received at least one dose of the vaccines. However, finding slots on the CoWin portal continues to be a struggle for many; walk-in registration is not allowed for most age groups. However, the medical teams on the ground are doing spot registrations for these bedridden palliative care beneficiaries.