'They think they'll die after inoculation': Vaccine hesitancy plays spoilsport even as COVID-19 pandemic rages in rural Maharashtra

The second wave of COVID-19 may be slowing down in parts of the country, but the crisis is far from over. In Maharashtra, even as the situation improves manifold in several districts, some areas have shown a fresh rise in cases. The situation is further complicated by the fact that many in rural areas are reluctant to take vaccines.

The misconceptions are frequent and varied. While some are convinced that they will die if they get inoculated, others think that the true (read as safe) vaccines are being given to only frontline workers.

In Maharashtra's Gadchiroli for example, the residents of Dhanora tehsil villages have for the most part refused COVID-19 vaccines. "Only 40 people of 45+ took vaccine. Others think they'll die after inoculation. The elderly think, vaccination for 18+ will make them infertile," news agency ANI quoted an Ayush worker as saying.

"We share our experience with them that we're healthy after taking the vaccine to encourage them. But they say frontline workers get different vaccines. We're trying to create awareness with help of other departments in the village," added another official.

From performance of street plays to vans that wander around while loudly disseminating relevant messages - healthcare workers in various parts of the state have resorted to unusual means to eradicate vaccine hesitancy.

"Cultural troupes have been deployed to perform street plays in local languages to get advocacy messages at 11 400 strategic locations across 36 districts of Maharashtra and 2 in Goa through the month of February to May 2021 in a unique outreach advocacy programme," explains an article on the WHO website.

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