Today, the phrase “God helps those who help themselves” would define in itself the principle to emphasize the importance of Covid-19 Vaccination as the virus unleashes a devastating second wave in India. Since there is broad consensus, backed scientifically, that vaccination can and will provide herd immunity, given the humanitarian crisis, ‘deferring’ to get the jab or a complete ‘refusal’ would prove to be potentially disastrous.
A follower of Ukhrul Times, concerned about the hesitancy to vaccinate wrote with frustration on the news portal’s twitter handle on May 20 – “Ukhrul district has a population of about 1.8 lakhs (2001 census). Approximately 9000+ has been given/taken 1st dose till date. What are they waiting for?”
This well-intended question resonates precisely what many others are thinking about the largely ‘deferring’, not a ‘complete refusal,’ to vaccinate.
The hesitation in Ukhrul and Kamjong districts has many leading factors. It’s not that primary healthcare teams have not visited villages for vaccination. District surveillance officer tasked for screening, isolation, referral alongside District administration are doing wonderous work, with home and community-based isolation proving to be very effective. The number of revoked containment zone will be a good indicator. Agreed, the feeble state of rural healthcare system and availability of medical supply is a huge concern, including the number of vaccine doses supplied by the state government to each district, but let’s leave this for another discussion.
Less than 10% turned up in a village under Chingai constituency on the day of vaccination. The talk of the town of sorts surrounding the vaccination is to avoid getting the jab. This is not surprising given the amount of fake news and conspiracy theories on YouTube that’s gone viral doing the rounds on several hundreds of Whatsapp groups. The “avoid getting the jab” is further amplified by religious leaders in villages, through word of mouth, inflicting grave harm on vaccination drive, coupled with maximum disinformation found in undocumented research, unscientific assertion, at the very least, almost equating the status of India’s god man personalities unabashed advise on Covid cure through Cow urine or Coronil.
What is alarming however is the growing concerns about smaller towns in rural villages where the virus has made inroads. Ukhrul district till date reported eight Covid fatality. Out of the three Covid patients who died at Ukhrul District Hospital, two were brought from a village. There is growing concern on the number of Covid positive cases in far flung Kamjong district as we speak.
Speaking to a number of individuals, it was found that many Pastors and Deacons haven’t had their first dose of the vaccine. If you are curious, do check if your local pastor has taken the jab. It also emerged that for most, it’s trust issue – news reports that in spite of vaccination, people still contract the virus, and die. For some, that the trial time for the vaccines is too short.
Therefore, the job at hand for the sane educated Christians and the Church is to first of all form a framework that will lay the foundation on how Christians should respond in a pandemic. Especially when precious lives are lost to Covid every passing day. This is not a mock drill. How do we convince the vast majority in debunking conspiracy theories and purge their uninformed fear should be the first hard task. Clearly it’s not a case of disbelieve in science, since villagers don’t quite understand science.
Vaccine hesitancy among the clergy is an issue since both the districts are predominantly Christians. The Church has to lead from the forefront from Sunday pulpit to make their congregation defend from disinformation and ask them to make refusing to vaccinate a question of faith.
At the same time, it’s not just the coronavirus but it is also “Bad Theology” that is killing us. In times of mimao (pandemic) the tone of messages that pours in through Clergy or the Khanong (Untrained physician) is the wrath of God upon humankind. All the doom and gloom is a result of human race’s commiting zillions of commission and omission sins. Theologically speaking, large part of “renounce from your sins or face the wrath of God” are tabled from Old Testament. More of Jesus’ preaching on Forgiveness, Mercy, Compassion and unconditional Love would make much more sense to bring in that whiff of fresh air.
Act on time before your family face incredible personal loss all because of ignorance – please vaccinate, if you are healthy.