Mumbai University students mount campaign to fight Covid vaccine hesitancy
Around 2,000 students from colleges affiliated to the University of Mumbai have recently reached out to over 22,500 people through WhatsApp and posted 1,200 messages on various social media websites to help in India’s fight against vaccine hesitancy, proving to be a significant hurdle in several pockets of the country.
The students were trained to promote Covid-appropriate behaviour and the importance of vaccines in sessions conducted by United Way Mumbai-- an NGO involved in Covid relief-- in partnership with UNICEF or the United Nations Children’s Fund and the National Service Scheme (NSS) wing of the university.
“This training helped bust myths such as the one claiming menstruating women should not be vaccinated. I shared this with my own mother who finally got the vaccine without any hesitation,” said Nishtha Bansal, from VES College Chembur.
Several such myths were responsible for a large section of the population staying away from vaccines. Prime Minister Narendra Modi too asked people on Sunday to shed vaccine hesitancy, dispel rumours and deepen their faith in science and scientists, who have toiled to develop the life-saving shots in the year of the pandemic. The NGO said the students are a big help in carrying the government’s message to the doorstep of people.
“Vaccination is the silver bullet to fight the pandemic but we have noticed immense vaccine hesitancy among the middle and low income communities.
Majority of the students we are working with come from the very same communities. Not only are these students advocating the use of vaccines but also helping people register and get appointments online,” said Sahej Mantri, senior manager for campaigns run by United Way in Mumbai.
Mantri said students thoroughly enjoyed the training sessions as it allowed them to pick up social media skills while doing social work. “Social media today is a key professional skill set and students get excited when they can learn new skills and at the same time follow their passion for social work,’’ said Sudhir Puranik, incharge director, NSS wing, MU.
India has so far administered 371.8 million doses to 265.4 million people since January 16, 2021, when the national Covid-19 vaccination drive was launched. A total of 209 million people have received one dose, while 56.4 million people have been fully vaccinated till Sunday morning, according to government data.
While the threat of the third wave of the disease hovers around, experts say that the pace of India’s immunisation drive still needs to pick up, because even at this rate (of six millions jabs per day), it would take India until February 2022 to vaccinate its entire adult population.