Raipur: Sarpanches around Raipur are having a hard time dispelling fears that the Covid vaccine causes loss of sexual virility, “leading to impotence”.
Many villagers have complained of waning libidos after taking the jab. Village administrations said that young men, particularly the unmarried, were staying away from vaccine camps.
“Such social media rumours” have derailed vaccine work in these villages, sarpanches said.
Khauna village sarpanch Hemant Thakur, 50, said, “We have vaccinated 10 per cent of the 5,000 eligible villagers here. But the men are all above 45. Those in the 18-44 category are afraid they will become sexually impotent.” Thakur’s argument that he was fine after taking both doses did not find takers.
Deputy sarpanch of Dharsiwa village Sahil Khan said a relative had complained of ‘losing sexual vigour’ after taking the first shot. “This hearsay is keeping away young men,” he said.
Deputy sarpanch in Siltara village Sanju Sahu said his men believed the vaccine would make them sterile. “They do not say this to our faces but refuse to take the jab nonetheless,” Sahu told ThePrint. Fourteen have died in Siltara from Covid or Covid-like symptoms in the last two months.
Deaths add to vaccine hesitancy
Villagers were also convinced that the Covid antidote does not stop death. Some were scared that vaccines would kill them because they saw people dying after taking the first dose.
Raipur District Panchayat President Domeshwari Verma said: “The second wave has killed nearly 250 people in villages around Raipur. Many deaths remain unverified. The mortality rate has worried villagers. Those who died after the shot took things for granted. Many were infected as they ignored Covid-appropriate behaviour, went out and socialised.”
Her team urged people not to do that. “Villagers ask us why people died even after taking the first dose. We explain that proper immunity develops only after the second. Even infected, recovery was certain in these cases,” she said.
Villagers want the administration to insure them against the “ill effects” of the vaccine and secure their families’ wellbeing.
Verma said some had got such assurances in writing. “All efforts are being taken to convince them,” she said.
District Collector Dr S. Bharathi Dasan admitted some villagers feared vaccines because of “their own misgivings”. He said NGOs were going door-to-door to counsel those reluctant to take the vaccine.
“Local officers are trying to build confidence. We tell villagers that vaccination is also good for the larger interest of society,” he said.
The administration is helping villagers to register for vaccination at the portal ‘cgteeka.cgstate.gov.in’. If needed, special vaccination camps would be held in villages, Dasan said, hoping “things would improve in the coming days”.
Sixteen kilometres from Raipur is Pawani, which lost 25 villagers between 10-23 April. Former deputy sarpanch Giriwar Verma was so panicked that even he hesitated to take the second shot. “After the spate of deaths, we kept wondering who would be next. Of the 25, seven had taken the first shot,” Verma said.
Another Pawani villager Kaushal Gautam said he was the only earner in the family. “I have taken the first dose but am hesitating to go for the second. The government should announce a compensation plan for our families in case we die after taking the vaccine,” he said.
Nearly 50 have died in Tikari in the last one and a half months. Among the dead were Covid positive villagers, those who showed symptoms but ignored the test, and those who had taken the first shot.
Villager Nilambar, 55, lost his 32-year-old son to Covid on 21 April. He said 10 villagers had taken vaccines, showed no symptoms, but still passed on. “No one knows how they were infected. This worries us. Even I don’t intend to take the second dose although my first jab was 40 days ago. Why should we take vaccines unless the government takes responsibility of our lives and our families,” Nilambar asked.
Sarpanch Khilendra Verma said only 15 of the 50 had died of Covid. “It is true some had taken the first shot but they ignored tests after symptoms,” he said.
Thirty-five kilometres from Raipur, Khauna village saw 30 deaths since 10 April.
There is a lot of mistrust over vaccination, said villager Narad Netam, 50. Several have died here after the first shot, he said, making others ‘apprehensive’ about vaccine efficacy. “Hum pade likhhe nahin hai. Dhoka kha gayein. Ab dar lagne laga hai. Mujhey dusra dose nahin lena hai (Uneducated tribals like me feel cheated. We are also scared. I am hesitant to take my second dose),” Netam said.
Dhaneli village sarpanch Mantora Sahu lost his father, grandmother and elder brother within days of each other in April. “Yahan tika ko lekar kafi afwahein hain. Logon ke man mein bahut shankayein hain. Unko dar lag raha hai ki tika lagane se unki maut ho jayegi (There are a lot of rumours around vaccines. People have doubts. They are scared vaccines will kill them),” he said.
Sahu said 25 had died in his village in two months. However, many Covid patients had recovered in home isolation, he said.
Dharsiwa sarpanch Sahil Khan informed that 35 people had died in his village and in nearby Charauda. “Seven to eight of the 17 in Dharsiwa died after vaccination. Some of them ignored Covid tests and remained home with symptoms. We are trying to persuade villagers to get the vaccine but these deaths have hit them hard,” Khan said.
More than 40 have died in the three villages of Kurud, Kharora and Parsada, close to New Raipur. The toll in Parsada alone was 20.