Rural Resistance to Covid Vaccination in MP over Rumours of Death and Impotence | #elderly | #seniors | #execrise
Madhya Pradesh has begun a phased unlocking of Covid-related restrictions on residents from June 1 and mass vaccination has also been taken up as a top priority by the administration to keep the pandemic in check. However, the rural population, particularly in tribal areas, has been posing a stiff resistance to the inoculation drive based on unfounded speculation, officials say.
Villagers are alarmed by possible death, falling ill or turning sterile as side effects of the jabs. A recent video widely circulated on social media showed an elderly woman fearing for her life in front of the collector of Niwari district as officials were trying to encourage vaccination in the village.
Among the worst performers in terms of two vaccine doses delivered to people in the 45+ age group in Madhya Pradesh are far-lung and tribal districts like Umaria (4,519), Sidhi (6,510), Panna (6,712), Mandla (8,965), Alirajur (4,567), Agar (6,381), Anuppur (6,141), Dindori (3,785), Jhabua (8,920), etc, according to health department data.
Social activist Maya Vishwakarma, who works in remote areas of Narsinghpur and Chhindwara, told News18 that locals are averse to the idea of inoculation, and even her own parents required plenty of persuasion. “The young ones are eager for vaccination but the elderly and middle-aged people fear possible death, illness and infertility and don’t wish to take the jabs,” said Maya.
The women have a unique plea that vaccination leads to temporary illness and who then would take care of their households, said the social worker who is busy trying to persuade people for inoculation.
Abhishek Rokade, a physiotherapy student of MGM College in Indore, said he lives close to Mirzapur village and a large number of people fear Covid vaccines after hearing baseless rumours and messages from acquaintances. However, after steady persuasion, several people agreed to take the shots, said Rokade, adding that he carries his vaccination certificate to convince people.
Several volunteers who have been to rural places, especially in tribal regions, say that initially, the fear of vaccination was so acute that people would bolt on spotting health department vehicles.
“In tribal-dominated Dindori district, locals were totally averse to vaccines, saying governments want to kill them with poisonous shots so their land and belongings could be snatched,” a senior volunteer told News18 after a visit to the district.
He, however, said that with constant cajoling and intervention of volunteers who work among them, the apprehensions are waning.
Shivpuri, another laggard in terms of vaccination goals, had also reported similar rumours as elderly people got the first dose and declined the second one, saying they ran a high fever and could have died. In villages like Sirsaud, the health staff had reached fair price shops for persuading locals who said they can shun free ration but won’t take vaccine shots.
Sumaru, a tribal person from Barkhedi village, said he and others won’t take vaccines even if they are denied ration. “We work hard, so we don’t need vaccines,” he argued. Residents of the village had previously run away when the vaccination team reached there.
Initially, the inoculation was done in both urban and rural areas with the help of the Centre’s CoWIN portal by booking slots. But as villagers were averse to the drive, the administration in districts started holding camps and offering vaccines through on-site registration at public health centres.
NGOs too are extending a helping hand to the healthcare workers in far-flung regions. One of them, YouthForChildren, which is a volunteer group backed by UNICEF, is working in the Dhar and Jhabua districts to raise awareness. The volunteers hold camps with the health staff and persuade locals to get vaccinated by addressing their misconceptions.
In tribal-dominated districts like Dindori, members of Jan Abhiyan Parishad and women and child development department are distributing turmeric-smeared rice to rural households (a traditional way of inviting someone) for attending vaccination camps.
Also, in districts like Chhindwara, Covid volunteers reached among labourers working under the government’s employment guarantee scheme, persuading them for vaccination.
Former assembly speaker Sitasaran Sharma, an MLA from Hoshangabad, had announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh for the gram panchayat that would attain the 100 per cent vaccination target. The lawmaker had gone to several villages to convince locals to vaccinate.
The state government in coordination with frontline health workers, various departments and volunteer organisations is also trying to boost the speed of the inoculation exercise in rural areas.
A separate group of ministers has been formed to monitor the process.
Dr Pankaj Shukla, the state vaccination officer, told News18 that webinars are being held to make frontline workers and volunteers aware of measures to boost vaccination in rural areas. “We also have partnered with leading NGOs to seek their help and have collaborated with UNICEF which is helping us boost vaccination in 89 tribal dominated blocks through their network,” he added.
Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has asked the administration to bust vaccination-related myths.
Madhya Pradesh is seventh in terms of vaccination among states, administering around 1.17 crore first doses. With 1,683 vaccination centres including 13 private ones, the state has administered over 1.36 crore vaccine doses till now, data from the CoWIN portal said. 18.85 lakh second doses have been provided till now. The state had administered more than one lakh doses on Thursday when reports last came in. A total of 203 vaccination centres have inoculated over 8.71 lakh locals in Bhopal with the first dose and 1.59 lakh with the second.
Among those inoculated in MP, over 66 lakh are males as against 51.87 lakh females. Despite being late beneficiaries, people in the 18-44 age category have surpassed other sections, as over 46.54 lakh from this group have been vaccinated till now, compared to 40 lakh in the 45 to 60 group and 31.50 lakh in the 60+ category.
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