Like in the recent past, many self-proclaimed ‘health experts’ have tried to push their agenda during the COVID-19 pandemic too, but it seems to have failed now.

Woman getting vaccine shotImage for representation
news COVID-19 Vaccine Friday, June 11, 2021 - 10:28

Many would remember the viral video during the deadly 2018 Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala, where a self-proclaimed naturopathist, Mohanan Vaidyar, ate a few fruits, which he claimed to be eaten by bats (carriers of the Nipah virus). He presented the video to “prove” that the Nipah virus, which claimed the lives of 17 people in Kozhikode in May 2018, was not real. Like him, many self-proclaimed ‘health experts’, in the recent past, have falsely and illogically criticised modern medicine, claimed diseases to be “fake” and propagated anti-vaccination propaganda. The videos of these claims have gone viral too. Many of them even tried to push their agenda during the COVID-19 pandemic too. However, it seems to have failed now. According to Kerala health officials, there are fewer takers for these false claims and people have distanced themselves from such “experts” amid the pandemic.

For instance, on May 18, Mohanan Vaidyar posted a video on YouTube, where he talks about “how to overcome the present scenario.” This was despite being arrested last year for propagating fake treatment for COVID-19. Without naming COVID-19, coronavirus or the COVID-19 vaccines, he asked people not to “cry” about virus, bacteria or fungus, claiming that the human body will “automatically” fix any problems and that one needs to go back to organic farming. However, the video has only garnered 33 views so far.

Another ‘naturopath’ Jacob Vadakkanchery, who has many followers, has, in the past, openly spoken against vaccinations in general. He continues to criticise the COVID-19 vaccines by twisting certain news and facts. For example, in a video criticising the COVID-19 vaccine, he cited a report, saying that advocate Prashant Bhushan (representing Dr Jacob Puliyel) moved the Supreme Court “against forceful vaccination”. However, according to reports, the plea in SC was to direct the Union government and vaccine manufacturers to reveal data regarding clinical trials and also to direct the Union government not to issue coercive orders that will enable the use of “inadequately tested vaccines.” In another video, he claims that there is “data” showing that doctors are hesitant to take the vaccine. However, he does not reveal the source of the data or news. Though there is still a group of people who follow Vadakkanchery, health officials in the state say that his followers have drastically come down.

Speaking to TNM, Dr Mohammed Asheel, Executive Director of the Kerala Social Security Mission, explained why people have largely distanced themselves from such people.

“People who spread anti-vaccine messages are not completely silent, but there are fewer takers for what they say. The Kerala government has been able to push back the influence of people like Jacob Vadakanchery through positive campaigns. The media is also positively working in discrediting such claims. Now, it has come to a point where the government is not required to actively engage in such propaganda because people are no longer believing what they say,” said Dr Mohammed Asheel.

He also noted that the severity of COVID-19 has brought an attitude shift among those with vaccine hesitancy. “People are witnessing their dear ones dying in front of them; it is affecting them personally. COVID-19 vaccines have less efficacy when compared to the vaccines for other diseases, which were established over the years. Yet, they are ready to take the COVID-19 vaccine as they are seeing its benefits,” Dr Aheel said.

Officials state that vaccination hesitancy has become a thing of the past even in regions known for its hesitancy to take vaccines. Malappuram was one such district with a strong influence of the anti-vaccine campaigns. However, today, according to district health officials, there is a huge demand for COVID-19 vaccines in the district. “Initially, there was vaccine hesitancy, but not resistance. Now, there is no hesitancy at all, and there is a huge demand for the vaccines,” said Malappuram District Medical Officer (DMO) K Sakeena. Field-level workers in the district and state people are increasingly inquiring about vaccine availability in Malappuram. Besides, experts across the globe, too, have been encouraging people to get vaccinated at the earliest to reduce the severity of COVID-19, if they get infected.


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