Meghalaya’s religious leaders to play key role in battle against vaccine hesitancy
Religious and faith-based leaders across Meghalaya have agreed to play a key role in battling vaccine hesitancy and the spread of misinformation against the COVID-19 pandemic.
This has come in the aftermath of an interactive zoom session that was held recently by the office of the Principal Secretary, Health & Family Welfare Department. The session witnessed participation from over 150 leaders of various religious organisations from across the State.
Religious leaders and faith-based communities have been playing an important role in sensitising masses about the COVID-19 virus and the importance and rationale behind COVID-19 appropriate behaviour.
And now, as intensive vaccination drives continue, vaccine hesitancy and misinformation, among other factors, have emerged as huge deterrents to preventative care against COVID-19.
Around 70 per cent of faith-based leaders said that they were already taking action while 30 per cent responded that they were willing to take action but just did not know how to systematically go about doing the needful.
The majority of the religious leaders agreed that religion gives a sense of purpose and meaning during hard times. They also agreed that religion helps to mobilise people and act collectively and make the right moral decisions.
“A harmony of faith, science and tradition is crucial to battle the pandemic situation,” Central Puja Committee leader Naba Bhattacharjee said adding that it is crucial to counter false information that has been circulating on social media.
Religious organisations as information disseminators in rural and hard-to-reach areas
In many hard-to-reach areas of Meghalaya, where people still do not use smartphones and the internet, religious places and congregations can act as crucial platforms for information dissemination and addressing concerns and queries related to the vaccine as well as COVID-19.
“It is evident that the State administration is extensively working through online and offline communication channels to spread information, but many people in rural areas do not even use smartphones, hence, they are often left out of the purview. In such cases, religious organisations like Churches can help to take the right message to the last mile,” remarked Bishop Jose from Tura.
“In rural areas, people are often seen to be psychologically and emotionally affected due to closure of Church services, as these give solace and guidance to them, especially during hard times,” stated Rev. HCT Sumer from Jowai.
“Though it may not be wise to open up religious institutions now, given the current scenario, pocket meetings could be held in various religious places where health experts could come in and address a limited number of people and their queries while following all protocols”, suggested Noor Nongrum from Shillong Muslim Union.
(Edited by Ibankyntiew Mawrie)
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