Kiphire district, Nagaland | Photo courtesy: Deputy Commissioner, Kiphire

Kiphire district of Nagaland is one of the least vaccinated districts in the country even as it reported a total of 9 deaths due to COVID-19 infection.

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The remote district, along the India-Myanmar border, is witnessing acute vaccine hesitancy. Kiphire has been identified by the Centre as the district with the lowest first dose coverage of COVID-19 vaccine with only 16% population taking the jab. It drew attention during a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, held on November 3, with officials of 48 districts across India where the vaccination coverage is still lesser than 50 per cent of population.

A report in the Deccan Herald said that while the district officials have initiated several awareness drives, including calls from pastors during Church services and cash rewards, COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in the district still remains “acute”.

“Vaccine hesitancy is everywhere but it is more acute in our district,” deputy commissioner of Kiphire, T Wati Aier was quoted as saying in the Deccan Herald report.

“It is mainly due to rumour-mongering by some people who claim about the adverse impact of COVID-19 vaccination. Rumours such as those taking vaccines will die after two years, women becoming infertile and some others are being spread through social media. We announced cash rewards for villages registering 100% vaccination and for the nurses achieving maximum vaccination. We have been taking help of NGOs to spread awareness and even urged the pastors to encourage people in their sermons to take vaccines. But nothing seems to be making much headway,” the deputy commissioner said.

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“There are five-six villages where no one has still taken the vaccines,” he added.

Kiphire district, with 104 registered villages, has a total population of 74,000. According to CoWIN data, the district administered 21,400 doses of COVID-19 vaccine with 13,049 getting the first dose while 8,351 are fully vaccinated as on November 7.

The district reported 261 cases of COVID-19 till date while five cases are still active.

The deputy commissioner said tough terrain, communication problems faced during the rainy season (May to September) and low literacy level (68% against over 80% in Nagaland) are some of the other hurdles faced by the Kiphire administration in achieving the vaccination target.

“Since the PM has given the 48 districts one month time to ramp up vaccination, I have convened a meeting of all officials on November 8 to chalk out an action plan. We will take the help of the Gaonburhas (village headmen), village councils, ward members, NGOs, community leaders on how to fight the vaccine hesitancy and increase vaccination. We will also make short videos and spread those through social media to counter the rumours,” Aier was quoted as saying by the report.

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Nagaland reported 31,922 COVID-19 positive cases, out of which 154 are still active. The state registered 673 deaths.

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