Naresh Kumar Mishra | Aug 8, 2021 | 3 min read
Damoh: Rumours and misconceptions prevailing among the largely illiterate rural population in the Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh are impeding the COVID-19 vaccination programme. The situation is particularly serious in the villages of Damoh district, where health workers are being abused and prevented from administering anti-Covid vaccines.
The vaccine challenge is a major concern here, since it is compounded by the general reluctance of people to wear masks or maintain social distancing.
The sight of health workers has villagers run helter-skelter, or else, abuse and attack them. “People fear they will get sick and die after taking the vaccine. Out of a population of 650 people in our village (Prempura), only 10 -20 people have taken the vaccine,” Prempura Kendra Anganwadi worker Reena Vyas told 101Reporters. She has been repeatedly trying to persuade them but in vain.
The situation is not too different in Choraiya village either, where, to quote Anganwadi worker Maya Khatik, “people fear the vaccine will bring on a fever. The very mention of the vaccine has people banging their doors shut. They have warned officials from entering the village, and threaten to use violence to drive them away should they venture to vaccinate them. We are unable to persuade them otherwise. This has seriously affected our targets.”
Locals are even opposed to getting themselves tested for the virus. Officials cite the villages of Prempura, Hinota, Gasabad, Bardha, Patan, Patha, Pali under Hatta Civil Hospital as particularly challenging. Opposition to the vaccine programme is driven by women, and those in the 45- plus age group, although the younger generation remains reasonably well-disposed to getting injected.
Auxiliary nurse cum midwife (ANM) Parvati Patel singles out six villages in Damoh district in this regard. “The fear is not just confined to anti-Covid vaccines, but other vaccines as well, which is worrying.” This has prevented several government-run immunisation programmes from taking off, with many infants, including those who are severely malnourished, not getting immunised against many debilitating diseases.
In its zeal to stem the rising cases of COVID-19, the government had organised ANMs, ASHA and Anganwadi workers through its network of primary health centres (PHCs) to undertake the responsibility of injecting the vaccine to rural populations in the state. But opposition from locals has negated the efforts of the government.
Admitting to the problem, Block Medical Officer, Civil Hospital (Hatta) Dr RP Kori told 101Reporters that target fulfilment had been badly affected in the Gasabad and Hinota village centres under Hatta Civil Hospital due to local opposition to the anti-Covid vaccine. However, a strategy is in the process of being worked out with the help of the Village Employment Secretary and others. “Discussions are on to link the vaccine with other government schemes operating in rural areas,” he said.
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