Khunti Diocese holds a meeting of parish priests, medical experts, social workers and catechists on June 10. (Photo supplied)
Church leaders in eastern India have joined medical experts, social workers and catechists in a campaign to convince tribal people to take Covid-19 vaccines.
Tribal people including Christians in Khunti district of Jharkhand state are avoiding jabs for fear of death, fever and even impotence.
“It is a big challenge for all of us but one advantage for us as religious leaders and experts is that people are ready to listen and follow it [our advice]. We can convince them to take the jabs,” Father Bishu Aind, dean of Khunti Diocese, told UCA News.
The priest organized a June 10 meeting in the diocese where 18 parish priests, medical experts, social workers and catechists agreed that they must lead from the front.
“As most of us have already taken the Covid vaccination, it will be easy for us to go among the people and tell them that there is no truth in the misconceptions. We are the best example of that. We have to be frontline warriors,” Father Aind said.
“During the meeting, I and others shared our experiences of how we helped people during the peak time of the Covid-19 wave. I have visited more than 20 villages, driven an ambulance and performed the last rites when people stayed away due to fear of contacting the disease. There were times when there were only 4-5 people including me at funerals.
No one has proof that some people died due to taking Covid-19 jabs
“All these experiences will help us in narrating our experiences to the people and convincing them that taking a vaccine is safe and the only way to save oneself.”
Kanan Bala Tirkey, district program manager at a Khunti government-run hospital, told UCA News that medical experts can explain to people that coronavirus vaccination is as safe as taking jabs for malaria and hepatitis.
“We can rope in people who have already taken Covid-vaccinations, people who had Covid and recovered, and medical frontline warriors who are working among people. If they can beat the disease, why not general people?” the Catholic lay leader asked.
She said church leaders and experts can visit families, small prayer services or small gatherings and clear people’s doubts.
“No one has proof that some people died due to taking Covid-19 jabs. It is all 'he said, she said.' No one tried to find out the truth. However, there were incidents when a few people died after taking a vaccine, but it is very rare and the patients were already sick with other complications,” Tirkey said.
“It is common for people to get a fever after vaccination but a belief has been established among the people that vaccines are making them ill.”
According to the New Indian Express, villagers in Unkuda of Khunti district this month asked health workers to leave or face being killed. They were upset after a woman died within a few days of taking a Covid jab.
Some people who have taken the first dose of a vaccine are not turning up for the second one after they got fever
Similar reports have emerged from other parts of Khunti district.
Even some people who have taken the first dose of a vaccine are not turning up for the second one after they got fever, New Indian Express reported.
Meanwhile, Jharkhand’s government on June 9 extended its pandemic lockdown to June 16.
The state reported 603 new cases on June 9 and 13 more deaths. It has 5,099 active cases. Jharkhand has so far recorded 5,073 deaths and 342,179 cases.