HP healthcare workers grapple with vax hesitancy in Malana village

Updated on Aug 28, 2021 01:40 AM IST

Health care workers say villagers, who believe they are the descendents of Greek king Alexander, repeatedly refused to get the jab because it is against their beliefs.

Most decisions are taken by Malana’s own local governing bodies, but the local deity — Jamdagni Rishi or Jamlu Devta – has the final say. (HT File)
Most decisions are taken by Malana’s own local governing bodies, but the local deity — Jamdagni Rishi or Jamlu Devta – has the final say. (HT File)
By, Shimla

Around 99% of Himachal Pradesh’s population has been administered at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. However, health workers are still grappling with vaccine hesitancy in the remote village of Malana, where only 19% people have received the jab.

The remote village had grabbed headlines earlier this year when it had come to light that villagers were refusing to get inoculated as it was purportedly against their beliefs.

Not a single person in the two villages in Malana – Saura Behad and Dhara Behad – with a strength of around 2,000 residents had been inoculated till May. Health care workers say villagers, who believe they are the descendents of Greek king Alexander, repeatedly refused to get the jab because it is against their beliefs.

The government is running multiple campaigns in the villages to convince locals to inoculate themselves. However, so far officials have only been able to convince 204 of the 1,048 eligible people in the village.

The residents of Malana have followed their traditions for centuries now. Most decisions are taken by their own local governing bodies, but the local deity — Jamdagni Rishi or Jamlu Devta – has the final say.

Village chief Raju Ram, who played a vital role in convincing villagers to register themselves for vaccination, was the first one to take the jab in May. “As the elected head of the panchayat, it is my duty to motivate people to inoculate themselves,” he said.

“People in the village are still hesitant. It is difficult to counter their beliefs,” says accredited health (ASHA) worker Nirma Devi, 32.

“Though I do not fall in the 18- 44 age bracket, but I took the jab to motivate the women in my village,”says Nirma, who is a resident of Malana village.

“ I had many misconceptions about the jab. However, I decided to take the shot after reports emerged that a third wave was eminent,” says Purnu Devi, 38.

Many people in the village believe that the vaccine may reduce their life expectancy, while others believe that the supreme deity of the village will protect them.

“We have visited the village five times since May and people are gradually warming up to the idea of getting vaccinated. People of the village living outside have been vaccinated,” says Bimla Thakur, a health educator posted at the Community Health Centre in Jarhi, which is 4-km from the village.

Himachal Pradesh has administered the first dose to the over 96% of the total targeted population.

To date, the state has administered 71,43,592 doses to the eligible population. As many as 54,32,193 people have been administered the first dose and of them 17,11,399 have received the second jab as well.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Gaurav Bisht heads Hindustan Times’ Himachal bureau. He covers politics in the hill state and other issues concerning the masses.

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