A white-and-blue-coloured auto-rickshaw is gracing the streets of Chennai spreading awareness about vaccination. The Covid-19 Vaccine Auto was created by Chennai-based artist B. Gowtham, designed to eliminate vaccine hesitancy in local communities and build awareness about the benefits and the process of getting vaccinated.
Gowtham’s company ‘Art Kingdom’, along with the Greater Chennai Corporation, came together to establish innovative ways of promoting vaccination — and what better than a crafty vehicle that serves as a moving public service announcement?
“To go to communities, we needed transport,” Gowtham said. “And since there were narrow roads with a large number of people around, we decided that an autorickshaw would be the perfect mode of transport.” Thus began their project: Gowtham and his team of four members gathered waste materials, such as newspapers and pipes, to create their unique vehicle. Over around 10 days in the lockdown, Gowtham’s team finished building their auto.
The final product was the white and blue auto-rickshaw with huge vaccine needles protruding from all its sides. It had a vaccine vial at its top, a banner on the front and is now absolutely unmissable on the roads of Chennai.
The awareness drive began on June 25. The vehicle is equipped with an audio system that plays information about vaccination along with general Covid-19 safety guidelines. In addition, the volunteers distribute pamphlets wherever they go.
“The response has been fabulous,” Gowtham said. “In Chennai, even normal autos have banners to create awareness but the crowd rarely ever responds to it. People don’t pay attention to audio messages as well. However, when our auto reaches these people, if they’re walking they stand and watch it for at least five seconds with a wide opened mouth. They wave to us and laud us on our efforts.”
More than the Auto finding and reaching communities, it is the people that find the Auto, adds Gowtham. Because the Vaccine Auto looks attractive and approachable, people go up to the volunteers in the Auto and clarify their doubts about vaccination.
Gowtham’s project was supposed to take off two months ago. But with the artist down with Covid-19 and the subsequent shortage of vaccine doses in subsequent months, it finally began this month. Their efforts have won admirers on the internet.
Gowtham has created awareness through his art in the past as well. He is the designer behind the famous ‘Corona Helmet‘, a red and black spiked helmet that made headlines last year in the first wave of the pandemic. In addition, he has created art to contribute to various social campaigns such as tap water wastage and the removal of GST on sanitary pads.