Gurugram Faced with increasing resistance from villagers to its Covid-19 vaccination drive, the Nuh district administration has turned to a community radio programme — Alfaz-e-Mewat — to fight the myths and drive their message home.
The radio, which reaches 225 villages regularly, relays information about vaccinations from the district administration, chief medical officer and other influencers. Officials claim the initiative, which started 15 days ago, has helped increase the number of villagers reaching the vaccination centres in the district.
Officials said that the villagers were reluctant to take the vaccine due to several rumours that it is poisonous and may lead to impotency. “When health workers visited some villages to appeal to the locals to take the vaccine, the villagers emerged with sticks, threatening to attack them. Some even assaulted them and pushed them out of the village, alleging that the vaccine is poisonous,” said a senior official on the condition of anonymity.
Only 75,225 people of the 14 lakh population of Nuh have been vaccinated till now, said officials on Friday.
Nuh deputy commissioner Dhirendra Khadgata admitted that they have been facing stiff resistance from a few villages in the districts. “Many villagers had stopped coming out of their houses and had locked themselves inside after health workers insisted that they take the jabs,” he said.
Khadgata said to tackle the reluctance, the administration roped in influencers, political leaders and village sarpanchs to spread awareness. “Our idea was to reach out to maximum villagers and to bust the myths so that more and more people get vaccinated. Radio broadcasting has helped us in a big way and the numbers are increasing. This initiative will play a pro-active role in creating awareness about the pandemic and why vaccination is important,” he said.
An official said that in 224 villages, which had seen zero vaccinations till at least two weeks ago, at least 50 people each had turned up for the jabs after the radio outreach commenced.
In addition to vaccine awareness, Alfaz-e-Mewat is also keeping its listeners informed about the total number of Covid cases, how the pandemic is shaping, and also local events in the district related to vaccination and testing.
Pooja O Murada, principal lead, Alfaz-e-Mewat, said that they have a team of three regular staff and seven broadcasting programmers, in addition to local advisers. “We have faced a challenge in terms of vaccination drives and awareness programmes as people have different myths and were not ready to listen. We started connecting to more and more people and found ‘village heroes’, who introduced themselves on the show and narrated the story of how they were misled and what their experience of vaccination was,” she said.
Murada said they invited over a dozen doctors who talked about the myths surrounding the vaccinations.
Sanjay Singla, sarpanch of Pinangwan, said that of the nearly 20,000 population in his village, 4,000 have been vaccinated. “The radio has helped us in spreading awareness and motivating people to get vaccinated. It has also helped bust several myths… There are nearly 9,000 people above 45 years and 50% have been covered. The drive is in process and now villagers are coming up to get vaccinated and approaching me. Earlier they had refused and did not even open the doors for us and health workers,” he said, adding that they were against him for joining the drive with administration.
Rajender Kumar, sarpanch of Rehpua village, said they had launched regular awareness campaigns with the assistance of district administration to motivate the villagers to take the jabs. “Now the villagers are still listening and getting vaccinated but earlier they used to threaten people and take out weapons if anyone forced them,” he said.
Khadgata said the villagers should not believe in misleading information about the vaccine.
“We are announcing through loudspeakers that the vaccine is safe and has no side-effects. The vaccine will protect them from coronavirus infection. Also, we are announcing that villagers should follow the Covid protocol even after getting vaccinated,” he said.