COVID-19: Gold coins, appliances offered to inspire people to get vaccinated in Indian state

Patna: Authorities in Bihar are distributing gold coins and home appliances to encourage villagers to get vaccinated amid reports of people in the countryside showing no or little interest in the ongoing campaign against COVID-19.

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As part of the initiative the officials Officials in Sheohar district of Bihar are distributing gold coins, fridges, water purifiers, trolley bags, ovens with LGP cylinder, table fans and other home appliances.

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Bhola Prasad’s joy knew no bounds when he was handed out a gold coin on Saturday at the end of a lucky draw. Similarly, Jitu Manjhi got an LPG cylinder with an oven, Kiran Devi got the trolley bag and Jailisiya Devi received a water filter while Nazma Khatoon got a table fan. They all emerged winners through lucky draws.

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“The initiative has been launched to create awareness among the people and encourage them to get vaccinated,” Sheohar district magistrate Sajjan Raj Shekhar said on Tuesday. He said the programme would continue for the next eight weeks during which a list of those getting vaccinated would be prepared and then winners would be decided through lucky draws every Saturday.

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The district magistrate said the idea would also increase the confidence of the people in the vaccine and more  people can be vaccinated. Sheohar is one of the 38 districts of Bihar which faces the flood fury every year and hence the authorities want a large number of villagers getting vaccinated soon before the villages come under the impact of floodwaters, thus restricting the movements of the residents.

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Most people in villages are refusing to get the vaccines despite repeated appeals by the health officials who are reaching their homes with vaccines. Currently, more than 700 mobile vans have been deployed across the state to help the villagers get vaccinated right at their doorstep without following the complicated procedure of registering themselves, getting slots for vaccination and then finally rushing to the health centres to get vaccinated.

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Medical teams bear the brunt

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There are reports of angry villagers chasing the health workers and roughing them up. A peculiar situation arose in three villages of Hayaghat block in Darbhanga district on Monday when the villagers asked the health teams to leave their villages. “We will prefer death to vaccines,” the villagers told the health workers. “We launched awareness campaigns in the villages and appealed to the villagers to take vaccines but still they are showing no interest,” local village council chief Lalbabu said.

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“Vaccination drives have hit the dead-end in the rural areas. Recently, the residents from Barari village came out with bamboo sticks when a vaccination van reached their village. The medical staff fled the scene without vaccinating anyone to save their lives,” Bhagalpur district civil surgeon Dr Umesh Kumar said.

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Arwal district civil surgeon Dr Arvind Kumar said the medical staff were facing repeated threats from villagers. “Every time the villagers see the vaccination van, they chase the medical staff away. Perhaps they think that they would die or become impotent after taking the vaccines,” the civil surgeon said.

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In Bettiah town of West Champaran district, the villagers refused to budge even after the local district magistrate rushed to meet them and convince them about the benefits of vaccination. “I along with the DM visited the Lauriya block the other day but they didn’t show interest in vaccination despite our best efforts. The villagers told us that they have heard they would suffer lifelong illness if they take the vaccines,” local civil surgeon Dr Arun Kumar Sinha said.

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A little over 11.22 million people of the total 104 million have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in Bihar so far since the vaccination drive kick-started in January this year.

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