Kiphire grapples with vaccine hesitancy

The Primary Health Centre at Sanphure Village in Kiphire wears a deserted look. Vaccine hesitancy is ripe in the district with many falling victim to rumours about the COVID-19 vaccine. (Morung Photo)

The Primary Health Centre at Sanphure Village in Kiphire wears a deserted look. Vaccine hesitancy is ripe in the district with many falling victim to rumours about the COVID-19 vaccine. (Morung Photo)

P Achumse Yingbithonger
Kiphire | April 29

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to worsen across the country, the Medical Department in Kiphire is dealing with vaccine hesitancy due to spread of rumours on social media about the vaccine side effects.

Speaking to The Morung Express, Dr K Pewezo Khalo, District Programme Officer, (RCH/UIP), Kiphire said that there has been “mixed response” on the vaccination programme. 

“Only some eligible beneficiaries of 45 years and above are showing eagerness to take vaccine whereas majority are still in the stage of vaccine refusal. Unless the general population comes forward for vaccination, our district is far from being free of COVID-19, therefore, people should come forward for vaccination and together safeguard our district and mankind,” he appealed. 

The Deputy Commissioner of Kiphire, who is also the DTF chairman, has made numerous appeals to citizens to out-weight the benefits of vaccination over rumours. The DC has also encouraged the use of available platforms like Churches, social media, distributing of leaflets, posters etc. Yet, public hesitance on vaccines continues.

Dr Khalo informed that so far only 1,008 citizens of 45 years and above have been vaccinated. This is just a small fraction compared to the district population, he stated. He said that there is enough vaccine stock in the district, especially given the low public response. A new batch of vaccines will be arriving within a week, he added.

With the announcement of vaccination for 18 years and above from May 1, Dr Khalo encouraged all eligible beneficiaries to avail the vaccine from the nearest COVID vaccination centre located in the district hospital, CHCs, PHCs and health and welfare centres.

He meanwhile informed that the District Hospital Kiphire is designated as a COVID-19 hospital with basic minimal life support system. He said that additional technical personnel are needed to support and operate the system.

Dr Khalo urged people to strictly adhere to the SOPs, stressing that no one is immune to COVID-19. Noting the devastation that is being caused by the second wave of COVID in the country, he said there is still much to learn of the COVID-19 infection. The safest way to stay away from the virus is to accept the vaccine, he said.

Kalika, Community Health Officer (CHO) at Sanphure PHC said that even after holding multiple awareness campaigns about the benefits of the vaccine, no one has come forward. So far no one from the area has received their vaccine jab. The officer said that villagers are hesitant because of rumours on social media.

The CHO said that many, especially in rural areas, are easily swayed by rumours. He expressed concern that people tend to believe more in whatever they see on social media than listen to health workers and experts. Monetary constraint to travel was also cited as a possible reason why many from rural areas have not been vaccinated. 

Kalika said that with the rising number of cases, some who were initially reluctant are becoming more receptive to the benefits of vaccination. 

A village elder from Sanphure, Muralen, is a case in point. When asked if he has taken the vaccine, Muraklen said: “We heard that if we take vaccine we will get sick and become unconscious and have medical complication in future so no one in the village is willing to take vaccine or is coming forward. However after slowly learning of the benefits of the vaccine, village elders are discussing that we need to take it,” he stated. 

He however stated that in-order to convince the villagers that the vaccine is safe, there has to be one volunteer to take the vaccine first.

One of the beneficiaries, T Pilise who has been vaccinated, said that the COVID-19 vaccine is just like any other vaccine and there was nothing to worry. He urged people not play with one’s life at this hour and listen to health workers and experts.

It has become pertinent for authorities to gain the confidence of the villagers. Authorities can make use of the AIR service where expert views about the benefits of vaccine can be disseminated in respective languages as most villagers still tune in to AIR. Churches may also use their platform to encourage congregations to actively participate in vaccination drive, given their influence and spiritual authority. 

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