Today I got a request from a dear friend and colleague @akadarj to talk to her field assistant (who hails from a remote forest village in Maharashtra), in Marathi, about why he should not be scared to take the vaccine. A thread.
The Forest Department of various districts in Maharashtra are vaccinating the frontline staff, and research teams working on ground with them on priority basis. I promptly agreed to speak with him and here's what I thought after having a long conversation with him.
There is an obvious scarcity of information regarding the vaccination process, and the disease to begin with. This is primarily because of lack of awareness campaigns - which could be a result of the sheer remoteness of some forest villages. +
There's fear due to older people falling sick after taking the first dose of vaccine with no clarity on whether it is the expected body reaction after the vaccine, infection despite the vaccine, or whether it is weakness due to any other medical reasons. +
Instead of seeking help, people choose to stay at home & provide care to their family members in whatever way they feel suitable, mostly traditional measures which may or may not be useful. +
Younger people fear that if the same happened to them after taking the jab, they would fail to take care of their families. So, they'd rather wait for their old parents to recover before even thinking of taking the jab themselves(even if there's an opportunity get it right away)+
There also seems to be some confusion reg when to take the 2nd dose. Under such circumstances, one wonders can the under-staffed, local dispensaries keep track of people & how seriously will people keep track of dates for the 2nd dose- an issue all over the world, including USA!+
After talking about the virus, the vaccine, the pros & cons of taking the jab, he confessed that he felt pressurized by his family to not take it - for now. I assured him it was safe, and that taking the vaccine was must in order to be able to keep taking care of his family. +
He reassured me that he would think about it seriously. Also, profusely thanked @akadarj & me for caring enough to call, & taking efforts to patiently explain things like "antibodies". (Ofc I used metaphors that he'd understand & did not know what they are called in Marathi.) +
Hence, we NEED to do better in conveying info to ALL citizens of the country via public health/other platforms. And MOST importantly, India needs to have a better game plan for distribution of vaccines (like the polio drive) to ensure it is accessible the remotest of villages.