Shillong: Concerned over the state’s COVID-19 vaccination drive hitting the hesitancy hurdle, Meghalaya MLA Dasakhiat Lamare has decided to engage local headmen and traditional heads of different villages to spread awareness among the people and get themselves protected from the deadly coronavirus.

Vaccination hesitancy, particularly among the elderly, has been one of the major challenges that most districts in the state are facing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I will take my second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine this week and will get it done in Nongpoh. I will make arrangements to call the local headmen and traditional heads of different villages in the programme and brief them about it so that it might help to some extent,” said Lamare, a legislator of the ruling National People’s Party (NPP) representing the Mawhati constituency.

Lamenting that vaccine hesitancy and fear among the people in his constituency are very critical, Lamare said that it has been difficult to convince them all this while. He, however, felt that vaccine is the only way forward.

The MLA said there are two kinds of fear for the vaccine among the people — religious and political.

“By political, I mean the same situation that was there when the enrollment for Aadhaar was witnessed. People were hesitant to enroll and had a lot of fear. There were several conspiracies that people had in their minds. Similar things are happening with the vaccine too,” said Lamare.

The health department along with the authorities concerned have now decided to engage religious leaders. Many of these leaders are already spreading awareness about the need to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

To overcome vaccine hesitancy, several legislators like Lahkmen Rymbui and Wailad Shylla have been adopting innovative strategies like giving money and ration and the outcome has been positive so far.

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Lamare, too, is now planning to come up with such initiatives to draw people to vaccination centres.

Commenting on the COVID-19 situation in his consituency Mawhati, Lamare said it is better than what it was three months ago, though positive cases are still reported.

Lamare emphasised on the need to do more in this regard. “We can’t force people to take the vaccine, the only solution is to keep trying,” he said.

He also condemned people involved in spreading misinformation and urged residents to take the vaccine since that was the only medicine that can fight the the virus.

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