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ANTI-VAXXERS VS THE PANDEMIC: Role of the anti-vaxxer propaganda amidst the pandemic in India

Covid 19 Oct 26, 2021

Have you seen the viral Whatsapp message circulating throughout India recently, which claims that the Nobel Laureate and French virologist, Luc Montagnier, has said, “anyone who has taken the COVID-19 vaccine will die within 2 years”?

Well, the first thing you need to know is that this message is, obviously, fake. There is usually no truth to such claims. However, the HIV-discovering virologist has, in fact, made plenty of controversial statements against vaccination, and hence, has become the perfect scapegoat to spread fear and apprehension.

While the Indian government struggles to procure vaccines for all, it seems like not everyone wants it, and therefore, it's possible that we may see a situation where we have more vaccines on one hand, and fewer people wanting to be vaccinated on the other!

Photo by Daniel Schuldi on Unsplash

Who comprises the anti-vaxxer community?

According to the Merriam-Webster English dictionary, an anti-vaxxer is someone who “opposes vaccination or laws that mandate vaccination”. But with organized protests, proposing bills and laws, evoking the fundamental human right to freedom, this community has evolved into something so much more than just that.

The Growing Anti-vaxxer Community in India- the Role of Social Media

As we have witnessed in the past, vaccine policies were never met with much resistance in India. Faith in vaccines has, time and again, been restored, even in the rural parts of the country, especially after the eradication of Polio.

But, the pandemic changed all of that.

Though the stance against vaccination has not yet found a formal setting in India, it instead exists in the form of WhatsApp forwards and baseless rumors, which, if nothing, have done a tremendous job creating fear among the common folk.

Social media has always been a double-edged sword. On one hand, social media served as a lifeline helping people arrange oxygen cylinders, medicines, and hospital beds for their loved ones. On the other, misinformation regarding the COVID-19 vaccines seems to be floating around on every platform, from WhatsApp to Instagram to even Telegram.

Instagram pages solely dedicated to this agenda are becoming increasingly popular. Thousands of followers seem to be convinced that there’s a deeper controversy afoot, not just with the vaccination drive, but the whole pandemic, some going as far as to believe that the disease, that has claimed the lives of millions, doesn’t even exist!

Why are they against vaccination?

It’s important to see that anti-vaxxers in India do not always require scientific reasoning to argue. Some believe that the vaccine itself can cause the disease. And others believe that the vaccine will downright kill you!

Some claim it’s anti-religion while others are of the opinion that modern medicine is a hoax and hence, the vaccines probably do not work. Some use logical arguments like, “why get vaccinated when the doctors say you can still get infected”, and others question blood clots or other adverse effects. Then there are those who compare the efficacies of the different vaccines available.

Media and news reports are often misinterpreted and fabricated by such people to serve their purpose, and spread across WhatsApp groups, deterring people from taking the vaccine, using their fears to harm the innocent but easily swayed.

Photo by Kai Pilger / Unsplash

Unmasking the Anti-maskers!

Recently, a video in India went viral, wherein a couple in Delhi is seen arguing with Police officers by refusing to wear masks, and goes on to get arrested!

The anti-masker agenda has often gone hand in hand with the anti-vaxxer stance. There’s no single solid reason as to why people refuse to wear masks in India.

Some believe that the disease isn’t serious enough to mandate the use of masks, while others have much simpler reasons like feeling suffocated or something superficial, like harm to their skin.

Funnily enough, a group of anti-vaxxer protesters in the US went about to do something never seen before by members of their community. They wore masks! But for a different reason than what you might think. According to them, the masks were to protect them from all those who had taken the vaccine!

So What Can You Do?

With so much information at our fingertips and with so much still unknown about the pandemic, it’s very likely that you might get overwhelmed, and influenced to not take the vaccine.

However, we must realize that there has been a colossal amount of research that went into making these vaccines available for use.

There’s no denying that there are adverse effects to these vaccines. Yes, it is important that people know these side effects and the purpose of the media is to report such important truths. However, it is more important as to how they do it, since, more often than not, the media controls the narrative.

Again, there’s no denying that you might get infected by the disease even after you are vaccinated. But it is seen that the number of people who get infected after they are fully vaccinated is rather small and also, the severity of the disease is extremely mild.

It’s important to note that the development of immunity after taking both doses of the vaccine takes time. You may not get infected yourself after being vaccinated, but you may serve as a carrier and hence, it is important that you still follow the safety guidelines to keep those around you safe.

If you suffer from any comorbidities or are on any medication or immunosuppressed, or if you have recovered from COVID recently, make sure you consult your physician to enquire about the vaccine before you take it.

In times like these, any rumor going around that holds people back from seeking the help that’s being provided undoes all the good work that the frontline workers put in day and night to battle the pandemic.

Make sure you fact-check any message before forwarding it. Be sure to educate those around you. Consult your doctor. And, get vaccinated!


Nuha Aleemuddin

Nuha Aleemuddin, a medical student by occupation, is a voracious reader and a table tennis player. She is interested in health research and aims to contribute and make a difference, via her work.

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