EXCLUSIVE – COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy: A lot needs to be done

By FrontierManipur | Published On 04th Jul, 2021, 09:58 GMT+0530

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Residents of a locality in Ukhrul waiting for their turns during a vaccination campaign

From the debate and discussion in community platforms to social media, it is obvious that vaccine hesitancy is as complex as understanding the virus. It will be difficult to pinpoint or identify the different factors that have accumulated and contributed to the hesitancy in taking the vaccines

By Tennoson Pheiray

There is no doubt that the number of people unwilling to take COVID vaccine is very high all over the world, and Ukhrul District could easily be amongst the top. Unfortunately, vaccine hesitancy could cripple the efforts of the Ukhrul District Health Authority in overcoming the pandemic.

From the debate and discussion in community platforms to social media, it is obvious that vaccine hesitancy is as complex as understanding the virus. It will be difficult to pinpoint or identify the different factors that have accumulated and contributed to the hesitancy in taking the vaccines.

Misinformation, lack of communication, individual issues abound. Many social media users are of the opinion that they do not feel the vaccine is safe or effective. Some people in Ukhrul are hesitant to take Covishield vaccine but willing to take other vaccines, that are not available in Ukhrul or Manipur, or for that matter in India.

On the other hand, there are many people actively blogging against any other vaccines. Some commented that COVID-19 is not really dangerous, and the vaccine could put the people through adverse health risks, and some even went to the extent of advocating that healthcare workers or public health officials were not trustworthy. And one of the more effective campaigns against the vaccines is that vaccines infringe upon individual civil rights. There are also a few bloggers who claimed that vaccines were immoral.

Overcoming the virus has to be multi-prong. Maintaining SOP, mass testing and vaccination must go hand in hand. However, whenever there is an announcement of mass testing from the District Health Authority, individuals online have come out openly against mass testing. There is also the hesitancy for testing because it is the season of paddy transplantation, and it is understandable that the cultivators would be worried about who would attend their fields if they were tested COVID-19 positive.

In the context of COVID-19 vaccines, people of Ukhrul need to be reassured and convinced that their concerns are heard to prevent the risk of stigmatizing people who are hesitant to take the vaccines. Honest and clear communication including the pros and cons of the vaccines will play an important role in changing the mindset of the people. Here, the public and youth icons, youth leaders, churches as the biggest mass based organisation definitely have a big role to play.

So far, the Ukhrul District Health Authority has been doing extensive campaigning, creating awareness and sharing health information about vaccines. In spite of the rains, the slushy and muddy road, the health workers are reaching out to the people, far and wide.

Despite discouraging stats and trends, we are slowly witnessing people coming forward for testing and vaccination. A total of 12,553 persons had taken the first dose and 3,189 had taken their second dose in the district. A total of 4,286 people at the age group of 18- 44 years and a total of 2,297 at the age group of 45-59 years had taken their first dose as on July 3, 2021, informed Ukhrul DIO Dr Pamza Luikham. Ukhrul DC Joseph Pauline Kamsom has lauded the impressive performance of the medical team led by Ukhrul CMO himself and expressed his hope that more people will come out for vaccination.

Yes, we need safe and effective vaccines but most importantly we need people from Ukhrul to believe in the vaccine too.

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