In this village, residents fear ‘death on vaccination’

Bhavnaben Jani, 47, was at Shyamaprasad Mukherjee Primary Health Centre (PHC) in Rupal village Monday morning after she got a call from the PHC the same morning, reminding her to get vaccinated for Covid. She was at the PHC to get her first dose.

Meetaben Patel, 43, another resident of Rupal village, too, received a call around 9 am for her first dose of vaccine. None in her family of parents, brother and sister-in-law got vaccinated so far.

When asked why they were not getting vaccinated, both said “they fear that they would die if they get vaccinated”. “We heard of a man who had Covid and vaccinated, died within a few days,” said Meetaben.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah who visited this PHC on Monday allayed fears of villagers like Bhavnaben and Meetaben. Shah had a brief chat with a woman who was being told by the PHC staff on the vaccination protocol and told her not to be scared. They told the woman that she should spread the message among other villagers and encourage them to get vaccinated. Shah also visited the famous Vardiyini mata temple in the village.

Rupal village in Shah’s constituency of Gandhinagar is yet to inoculate half its population of 7,000 since vaccination drive began in March.

The village, which reported 141 Covid cases in the second wave, got only 43 per cent of its residents vaccinated with the first dose and less than 19 per cent with the second dose.

As per records, around 3,357 residents are in the 18-44 years age group, of which 999 have taken their first dose and eight of them got both the doses. In the above 45 years category, the village has 1,695 persons of which 1,181 have got the first dose and 990 the second dose.

In the homes built under the HUDCO Awas Yojana, there are around 160 persons above 45 years of age, of which only 20 have taken the vaccine despite efforts by the health department and village panchayat. Reasons cited by villagers include “fear of death or other complications” once they get vaccinated.

“This is majorly seen among those Below Poverty Line (BPL) who belong to OBC communities in the village… They are worried that they will die once they get vaccinated or develop side-effects,” said Dr Jahid Sherasiya, medical officer of Rupal PHC.

“Despite assurances from the health department, panchayat members and revenue department officials, the villagers are still under the belief that they will not be infected with coronavirus. They say ‘we will not get Covid as we stay scattered in our farms’. Also, during the second wave, not a single member from the BPL community got infected, making them stay firm on their belief,” he told The Indian Express.

Dr Sherasiya added, “We have been able to achieve these numbers of vaccination due to our health and Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers who have contributed to more than 70 per cent of the vaccination numbers. Seven ASHA workers represent different communities of the village.”

The ASHA workers are also helping villagers to get registered for vaccination. Dhara Patel, 20, who was waiting for her turn at the PHC Monday morning for her first dose, said that it was an ASHA worker who got her registered two days ago. “She stays next to my house. After registration, she told me to reach here today morning,” Dhara said.

Village sarpanch Jasubhai Parmar whose family got infected with coronavirus last month is yet to get vaccinated. “I was scheduled to get vaccinated today but due to the event (by Union Home Minister), I could not. I will get it done tomorrow,” he said.

Speaking about low numbers of vaccination, Parmar said, “There was a fear among villagers but we have made them understand the benefits of getting vaccinated. From tomorrow, we would start mohalla karyakaram where vaccination teams will visit the village.”

The health department’s IEC (Information Education and Communication) team has also been organising puppet shows apart from house visits.

Health authorities say all the 141 who were infected during the second wave were treated under home isolation and not a single case required hospitalisation. Though a Covid care was set up in a government school, it was not used, they said.

On Monday, 4,87,960 persons were vaccinated across the state where the total vaccination number so far stood at 2.25 crore.

According to CoWin dashboard, in Gandhinagar district (rural areas), 13,146 persons were vaccinated on Monday, adding to the total of 4.02 lakh vaccinated so far. Of these, 3.08 lakh got the first dose and over 93,000 the second dose.

In Gandhinagar municipal areas, 4,219 persons were vaccinated on Monday. The total number of vaccinations in the city limits is 2.59 lakh where 2.11 lakh got their first dose and 48,088 second dose.

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