Thursday, June 24, 2021

Combat, “convert”

As the novel Coronavirus emerged and claimed lives and humbled economies and nations, soon after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global pandemic. India announced a total lockdown from the end of March 2020 ~ earlier than most countries nonetheless late because the damage started from February last year. What should and shouldn’t have been done since 2020 in India regarding the pandemic is a raging topic since then and will be for decades to come. As the pandemic raged, hope was reposed on a vaccine. Health and medical experts in related subjects worked overtime to invent one and now we have several. As with everything, the politics and economics of vaccines began and nations started the race for vaccine-empowerment. The vaccine story in India is well-known ~ it is an on-going manifestation of the adage: pride comes before a fall. Besides, the political, economic, policy and planning deficits in investing, manufacturing and distributing the vaccine, which seem to stubbornly resist resolution ~ mostly because of pride despite wearing no clothes ~ vaccine hesitancy is another problem, which must have led to huge wastage of vaccines. Let’s now focus on vaccine hesitancy in Nagaland, as the other aspects of the vaccine story in India are outside State Governments’ control. Since 2020, the world had talked about, hoped and prayed for a vaccine, so why the hesitation now? While it is true that people here are increasingly anxious to be jabbed still vaccine hesitancy also persists ~ statistics of the State Health authorities point towards that. So also our State Government eliciting the Church’s support to create awareness and educate people on the imperatives of vaccination. Our Opposition parties also claim working for the same objective. But why now only ~ although our Governor did flag this issue almost a couple of months ago? Our State Government should have known that even if we had sufficient stock for all our citizens, there would be vaccine hesitancy for various reasons. And, these reasons were/are clearly reflected on social media, which today unfortunately have become the Bible of the most smartphone users. For a Government that projects itself as very tech and media savvy, this lacunae is inexplicable. Today all kinds of information are available technologically and our people as much the “beneficiaries” as anyone across the globe. Correct and incorrect information for and against vaccination was there since the last months of 2020. Our Government should have elicited everybody’s support and cooperation to counter all kinds of “expert” opinions, research and “scientific” and “biblical” warnings against vaccination, especially since vaccination started. There could also be many nay-sayers in Government, Church and political parties. Because our biases and prejudices generally guide us, we are vulnerable to half-baked theories, unbaked ideologies, over-baked misinformation and blatant lies, so how do we effectively combat or “convert” vaccine nay-sayers? Yes, it is good that our Government wants to work with the Church, opposition parties, NGOs, tribal hohos and everyone else but what and where is the strategy and plan of action to coordinate these foot soldiers? Vaccine shortage persists so it would be a crying shame if these precious vaccines are wasted due to vaccine hesitancy. We don’t know the amount of our State’s expenditure on vaccine procurement. Whatever it is, we cannot afford to waste a single paisa. It would also be criminal on our part if we waste vaccines when millions in vulnerable countries are praying for it ~ and dying due to vaccine unavailability. To save people’s lives and the vaccines, our Government needs to work on a feasible strategy to combat vaccine hesitancy ~ vaccines may not be the panacea but they have the potentials of protection and prevention against COVID-19. To combat vaccine hesitancy, our Government also needs to utilize all available resources and platforms ~ the Fourth Estate, social media, as also all traditional and conventional means of information dissemination. Enlist our musicians, comedians, actors, theatres, sports-persons, elders, children and persons with unimpeachable social standing, who believe in science and vaccination. As is noticeable, our people have become experts in American politics and elections, the Israel-Palestine conflict and what-not ~ courtesy the social media university. Our Government now needs to gently remind nay-sayers that all of them have also been vaccinated against Small-pox, Chicken-pox, Polio, Diphtheria, Whooping Cough, Tuberculosis, Hepatitis-B, Tetanus, Measles, Mumps and Rubella, etc., without which a lot of us could have perished much before the Coronavirus raised it’s heinous head.