Vaccination Tales of Bandipora: Dispelling misinformation, countering hesitancy

Kashmir Magazine

Shafat Malik

Weavan, a remote village in North Kashmir's Bandipora District has reached 100% vaccination of eligible persons dispelling misinformation and countering hesitancy.

Riyaz Ahmed of Weaven village in North Kashmir's Bandipora District -non-motorable village - 30 Kms from District headquarters Bandipora told KNS that, When health workers tried to convince him to take the COVID-19 vaccine some weeks ago, he refused, saying that the jab would kill him.

Reyaz said that he had heard somewhere that Covid vaccine shots are lethal and " if a doctor errs while administering the shot, it will lead to an infection in the arm. The only way to save the person thereafter was by amputating the limb."

“My mother is 80 years old, while my father is 87. I was particularly scared to get them vaccinated,” he says. “Also, there hasn’t been one COVID-19 positive case in our village since the beginning of the pandemic last year. Therefore, we did not want the risk-taking vaccines shot. It was only after some of our village residents took the shot and survived that I developed faith in vaccines", he added.

Over four months after the vaccination drive commenced, Reyaz took his first shot at a vaccination camp organized in his village.

That day, health workers managed to inoculate 362 residents of wevan, or 100 per cent of its eligible population, setting an example for other rural residents, and prompting vaccination drives.


District Nodal officer Bandipora, Mehraj Wani(KAS), said that weavan stands out as a role model.

He lauded the initiative of health workers, ASHA workers, teachers stating that they started creating awareness when the vaccine rollout was only beginning, marred by staunch resistance in its rural pockets. “Now, every village wants to be weavan”, says Mehraj.


Mehraj also said that in addition to vaccine hesitancy, COVID-19 inoculation in weavan was hindered also due to the non-availability of the network in the village as to register them on the co-win platform for vaccination.


"To enable online registration for vaccines, the team collected ID cards of all the eligible villagers and registered them through their mobile phones with internet connections.


Block Medical Officer Bandipora, Dr Masarat Iqbal while talking to Kashmir News Service said that Myths about COVID-19 vaccines were the biggest hurdle to vaccination coverage in weavan village.


“When the vaccination drive first started, people in villages were strongly opposed to it, as they were overpowered by rumours,” says Masarat, adding that when we organized an inoculation drive firstly in weavan, we had to come back from there as they refused to take vaccine shot, as they were struggling amid rumours and misinformation.


Dr Masarat also said that the whole population of wevan was “gripped” by the fear of vaccines. “Upon persistent convincing, villagers would agree to take the shot, but the next time, when it was time to take a dose, they would back out again.


Masarat further said that to build vaccine advocacy among them, they created a task force comprised of healthcare workers, ASHA workers, Concern BLO, Health educators, the village head, and other members of the village council.

The team mapped out the eligible population and started organizing door-to-door awareness campaigns, debunking myths, and listing the benefits of vaccination.

" Every member of the taskforce got their shots and showed pictures and videos of their vaccinations to villagers. They also worked longer hours to demonstrate that vaccination was safe,." he said.


A few others, who tried to coax villagers into inoculation, faced greater resistance. Azad Hussain Sheikh, a booth level officer in weaven, says that villagers would latch the doors of their homes, as soon as they would see him approaching. “The elderly population, especially, was petrified,” says Azad, “When I would tell them to get vaccinated, they’d say that I was plotting to kill the villagers through poisonous injections.”


A 75-year-old woman from the village, too, fell for such rumours. “I was very scared,” she says. “When people from other villages would come here, they would bring stories of how vaccinations went wrong elsewhere, some felt dizzy, some got a fever, some had dysentery, and all of these people died, as no medicines work on the side effects of vaccination jabs.”


After achieving the feat of getting cent percent vaccine jabs to eligible persons, a resident of weaven village, who took the first jab said that they are awaiting their second shots.


“Nothing happened to me after I took the shot.I went to work in the fields soon after the injection. I even encouraged my relatives to get their shots", he added.

It took one month of vaccine advocacy, faith-building, and community mobilization in Weavan before it achieved the milestone of 100 percent vaccination of its eligible population, District Nodal officer, Mehraj Wani added.