Much unlike Odisha's urban area residents who queue up before Covid-19 vaccination centres for their turn every day, locals in some rural pockets of the state are fleeing to nearby jungles as soon as they get to learn that an inoculation drive was underway in the area. Bijay Panigrahi, the state nodal officer for Covid-19 vaccination, said health officials in certain remote areas have been experiencing a tough time trying to convince villagers about the efficacy of the vaccine as many fear that the dose might have an adverse effect on their wellbeing.
"People in a few villages of Rayagada district are avoiding vaccination. Their lifestyle is still steeped in dogmas and traditional beliefs. District administration officials and health workers have been told to take help of community leaders to generate awareness," he said. Dr S Saileja, a medical officer of a health centre who led a vaccination team to Rayagada's Champakana village, said almost all homes were locked with people having fled to the hills and forests when he arrived there.
Sharing a similar experience, Public Health Officer Subhasree Dash and Block Programme Officer Kalpana Mishra said they waited for over four hours for the residents of Champakana to turn up for vaccination, but no one did. "We visited some elderly people who could not really move out of their homes. They told us that their family members have gone to a nearby market. Wonder why all residents of the village would visit the market at the same time!" said a member of Dash's team.
According to local community leaders, residents were sceptical about vaccines, as many are under the impression that the fever and other after-effects of the jabs might be detrimental for their health. Officials, however, are of the view that local quacks have misguided them.
"We had conducted an awareness campaign for villagers of Champakana, Rekhapadar and Mukunddpur before the drive went underway. Community leaders were also invited to instil confidence among them, but that wasn't enough it seems," one of the officials said. Similar reports have also arrived from Bolangir.
District sub-collector S K Upaddhaya said he and other officials have been moving from one village to another to dispel all rumours surrounding the vaccination drive.