Who: Priyali Sur, advocating for vaccines for Pregnant women while being in the last phase of her pregnancy.
What: At eight months pregnant, Priyali Sur started a tireless campaign for the government to open vaccination for pregnant women in India.
Why: Priyali knocked at the doors of the judiciary, executive and legislative bodies. Her online campaign petition got more than 70,000 signatures and on 25th June 2021 about a month after her campaign the government opened vaccination of pregnant women.
Pregnancy – A Critical Time
Pregnancy can be a hard time and it’s symptoms can be unrelenting with morning sickness, heartburn, hemorrhoids, constipation, sleeplessness, mood swings, many aches and pain like back pain, swollen ankles, growing feet etc. Just the day-to-day experience is very uncomfortable and tiring. The body is flooded with hormones and is doing extra work all around which leaves a woman exhausted and sick. It is a critical time for the mother and the child.
Pregnancy – During The Deadly Pandemic
The second wave of pandemic hit India with catastrophic ferocity. The country recorded 16 million COVID-19 cases in just the two months – April and May 2021. This surge in the number of infected pushed hospitals and healthcare infrastructure to the brink. It triggered an unprecedented demand for hospital beds, medical staff, oxygen and crucial drugs. With a health system already much behind the curve, health facilities, including some meant for prenatal care, had to be turned into a COVID facilities. While the gynecologists stressed on in-person prenatal consultations, hospital lobbies and corridors thronged with COVID-19 patients, putting pregnant women and their babies at greater risk of exposure to coronavirus. To make matters worse, the vaccines available in India were still being tested for safety on pregnant women.
Pregnant women who have COVID-19 during pregnancy are at an increased risk for certain morbidities and severe illness, preterm birth and stillbirth and might be at high risk for other pregnancy complications. Virus infection can lead to them needing intensive care.
Priyali Sur, an award winning multimedia and broadcast journalist and a refugee & women’s rights advocate, was spending some quiet time in rural Southern India, when she tested COVID-19 positive. The hospitals refused to admit her despite the fact that she was in her first trimester of pregnancy. She was worried about herself and her baby’s health. Thankfully her fever broke in a day and her oxygen levels remained high.
Priyali came across numerous cases where just like her, COVID-19 positive pregnant women were turned away, as no hospital wanted to admit them. This despite the government guidelines stating obstetric treatment must be given to pregnant women with COVID-19, without delay. Angry and frustrated at the apathetic situation, an eight months pregnant Priyali decided to make the voice of this highly vulnerable population heard. She filed a petition on change.org requesting the health minister to open up vaccinations for pregnant women in India. More than 70,000 citizens, many of them pregnant women, signed the petition. Many wrote to her personally, expressing their support for the campaign. The response to her petition was slow and though she felt let down, Priyali didn’t stop at that. Three weeks later she filed a writ petition for vaccination at the Delhi High Court. Priyali tirelessly campaigned and advocated for opening vaccinations for pregnant women. She knocked at the doors of the judiciary, executive and legislative bodies.
Support For The Campaign
Priyali received huge support from the common citizens, most of whom were pregnant women. Political leaders and members of parliament such as Priyanka Chaturvedi and Ram Mohan Naidu Kinjarapu; Bollywood celebrities, news media companies and digital platforms also came out in her support.
Vaccination and Victory
Almost a month after her campaign the government opened vaccination for pregnant women in India. At any one time there are about 25 million pregnant women in India, who are vulnerable and at high risk of mortality if they contract COVID-19. This was a big win for all of them.
Priyali, now a lactating mother, got her first vaccine on 1st July 2021!
If Priyali Sur’s work during this pandemic has inspired or moved you, do cast your vote for her. Here is how you can vote for your favorite nominee for Jagran New Media & OnlyMyHealth’s HealthCare Heroes Awards 2021.