“one of the most common apprehensions among the people was that if you give the dose to children between the ages of 15 and 18, they will not be able to have kids in the future”

Lajjawati, a social impact worker, resides in Uttar Pradesh’s city of love – Agra. She works at The Agra Catholic Diocese Samaj Seva Sansthan, an organisation that works towards empowering and uplifting the rural community through its various educational and healthcare programmes. The organisation works closely on implementing all vaccine drives in Uttar Pradesh with communities and individuals in the rural regions.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the area in 2020, Lajjawati got down to the task of working at the grassroots level to help curb the spread of health misinformation and ensure each person in the prescribed age group got the COVID vaccine administered. However, she realised that rumours about the ill effects of the COVID-19 vaccine were being shared widely on social media and chat apps and had led to heightened vaccine hesitancy among the residents. As a result, people she approached often refused to take the vaccine dose citing fears such as death, disability, loss of vision, among others. These people relied on home remedies and absurd cures as a means to get rid of the infection. Lajjawati recalls,

With vaccine hesitancy hampering India’s COVID-19 pandemic recovery, it was crucial to get people inoculated. As lajjawati struggled to convince people that vaccines weren’t leading to deaths or other diseases, she attended a Factshala Media Literacy Workshop organised by Prof. Tanu Dang and learned simple tips that she could use and also share with others to help them identify fake rumours and online misinformation, and verify a message from a trustworthy source before forwarding it. She incorporated the learnings from the training and set out to bust vaccine and health-related myths among the general public.

“I can now effectively reach out to the people with the right information”

Lajjawati said at the end of the FactShala workshop.

The workshop helped Lajjwati easily dispel rumours and explain to the people the benefits of the vaccine and empower them with the right tools and the ways in which they can be fact-checkers at home and become more-informed citizens. Lajjawati saw a difference in people’s attitudes and willingness towards vaccines after they were convinced of how they were being misled by misinformation. Once they were made aware of how to consume information critically and how they could debunk misinformation, vaccine hesitancy started diminishing. FactShala helped Lajjawati carry forward her mission of serving her community and ensuring they stay protected from the virus.

FactShala’s efforts are focused on creating and strengthening a healthy information ecosystem that is changing individuals and making a difference in communities.