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Azra Naseem
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THE BURDEN OF ANTI-VAXXERS IN INDIA

23 December 2021

When it comes to matters of healthcare, indifference, unawareness, and callous attitude have a huge negative impact on the overall health status of the society and the country as a whole. India with an already overburdened health care system pays the extra cost of the damage that arises because of the inhibitions, ideologies, and beliefs that people have.


The last two years have been intense with the world going through phases of anxiousness trying to accept the COVID pandemic, waiting for a vaccine to help us get out of this, and then struggling to get the vaccine as soon as possible. The need for a vaccine to help us reduce the actual harm and loss of lives that a disease can cause has never been felt more than now. The impact and damage caused were real, and actual evidence was visible and felt by the world after the use of the vaccine.


In these challenging times, a bunch of people had a strong opinion against the use of vaccines, and with communication being easier than ever before in this age of the internet, the spread of information was faster. This community exists worldwide, and the support and validation they got from each other made it flourish more.


It is important to listen to their perspective and ideologies about this to actually get to the bottom of this problem and tackle it at the grass-root level. The reason that was discussed the most is the lack of trust because of how quickly the vaccine was manufactured and rolled out in the market. There is a lack of belief that scientists can actually ace such a mammoth task in such a short time. When the pandemic was in the initial stages, people even considered COVID to be a hoax or a government conspiracy. And then when it later came to a stage where people were asked to get vaccinated against a disease they in the first place did not believe actually exists, the reluctance was huge. Rumors such as the vaccines being used to inject a chip into our bodies to track us was quite popular on social media. The proportion of these rumors was definitely more in the illiterate population for obvious reasons but even the literate bunch of people were not away from these, leading to more spread of these rumors as they had the resources to be able to do so. It reached a point where there have been reported conflicts in the families because of differences in opinion about the vaccine. The spread of these communities has been across all platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Whatsapp, and the new and most viral addition being Telegram. In one of the protests held in Mumbai against COVID vaccines, a biotechnologist claimed it to be harmful to our well-being and just a fraudulent scam. When such information is being broadcasted by educated professionals, it does make it a serious problem and it would be unfair to assume that the unaware uneducated masses would not fall into this trap. With slogans like “Freedom over fear” being widely made popular through these protests, a lot of these Anti-vaxxers claim mandatory vaccination to be a violation of their right to choose what they want to administer in their body. One of the other claims is that natural immunity against COVID is the way to go about in the future rather than trying to protect oneself from it by using masks and vaccines. On digging deep, a lot of articles have been going around claiming these vaccines to be an agenda for profit involving scientists, international philanthropists, and pharmaceutical companies.


With the second wave coming and proving to be more harmful than the first wave, and the magnitude of loss that it caused, there was a positive shift in the attitude towards the vaccine. With people actually seeing evidence in front of them that the vaccine led to a decrease in hospitalization and the severity of disease, the number of people gradually taking and accepting the vaccine increased and that is something worth celebrating. This change coming not out of fear but because of the trust that we should have in everyone who worked hard towards developing the vaccine as soon as possible so that this pandemic does not cause any more damage is the change we would wish to see in our society.


With a new strain coming in, and discussions taking place about giving booster doses to reduce the spread, we can hope that the reluctance would be lesser this time and we would give everyone involved in helping us get vaccinated the due recognition they deserve.

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