India’s COVID crisis may be the worst in the world due to the nation’s initial denial of the problem followed by the government’s attempt to hide the seriousness of the epidemic.
But it also doesn’t help that some citizens refuse to get vaccinated because they believe God will be furious about it.
Al Jazeera’s Srishti Jaswal writes about the village of Malana, “a remote Himalayan village in northern India’s Himachal Pradesh state,” where only a few dozen residents out of 2,200 opted to get the shot:
Residents of Malana were reluctant to take the vaccine for months because the village council, a religious authority, had stonewalled the inoculation drive claiming the local deity, known as Jagadamani Rishi, had not agreed to it.
According to the villagers, it took about five months of rituals, prayers and petitions for the deity to “convey its assent” to the council for vaccination, the divine permission coming in mid-May when India was undergoing a ferocious second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite the deity’s “permission”, only 1.8 percent of the village’s population showed up for vaccination as villagers claimed Jagadamani Rishi spoke to them directly through a woman he had “possessed” two days before the May 22 camp.
It’s science denial mixed with the fear of God, all amounting to a preventable illness that ends up spreading anyway and hurting more people. It doesn’t help that the government’s denial of COVID’s seriousness led them to believe they have nothing to worry about. The people in that village have been lied to by their leaders — and their unwitting ignorance may lead to their deaths. I don’t know whether to be more sad or angry.
That’s not the only village in India taking all the wrong cues. But they all have similar stories. They believe God doesn’t want them to be vaccinated or that God will protect them some other way. They could easily convince themselves that the vaccines are God’s way of protecting them… but somehow, that option never comes up.
India doesn’t have enough vaccines to inoculate everyone in the country. But even if it had the supply, there are a lot of people who wouldn’t get it.
Before those of us in the U.S. roll our eyes at their ignorance, however, keep in mind that plenty of Americans are refusing vaccinations for similarly irrational reasons — conspiracy theories, misunderstandings about science, or a belief that their body is already protected somehow.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Som for the link)