Inside The Flawed Logic of India's Anti-Vax Community

Inside The Flawed Logic of India's Anti-Vax Community
Shreya Takodara for Homegrown

The fear of contracting the Coronavirus has plagued us all for over a year –– multiple precautions and several lockdowns later, too, we do not seem to be in a position that guarantees good health and safety. We could attribute this to multiple causes and effects, but here, we narrow down on one of them.

There has also been a cause of fear from a rather peculiar thought of a group of people –– anti-vaxxers. These are those individuals that are opposed to the prospect and administration of vaccines, in this case, the one against COVID-19. It’s a dangerous thought to hold –– that external medicine is unhelpful or even harmful to one’s body. Some of them may believe that the virus itself is a hoax, some believe the human body needs no aid to overcome it, while others stand by the fact that vaccines go against God’s intended nature.

In 1913, Mahatma Gandhi himself had expressed his concern over the nature of vaccines by calling it ‘sacrilege’. According to the Indian Express, he said, “Vaccination seems to be a savage custom … Vaccination is a filthy remedy.” In India, there exists a negative sentiment around the fact that vaccines may use extractions from animals, thereby deeming them unfit or ‘impure’ for humans. Gandhi, in 1929, had mentioned in a letter that he ‘wonders “how vegetarians can ever take such vaccine”, and described vaccination as “tantamount to partaking of beef”,’ according to the same Indian Express article.

Almost a century later, our biggest strength is that of science –– explanations for natural elements rooted in logic. Dr. Sanchari Sinha Dutta, Ph.D mentions that vaccinations lead to herd immunity (reduced chance of disease spreading within the community), and without them, the natural herd immunity may not be enough. A situation as novel as the COVID-19 pandemic calls for various opinions, but it must be realised that the solution, or even our best bet, lies in the hands of scientific experts –– those that have handled viruses and diseases for the better part of their lives.

Anti-mask protests in Mumbai

We must understand that there exists a difference between vaccine hesitancy and anti-vaccination. When the COVID-19 vaccine was in its nascent stages, most people were hesitant with thoughts of uncertainty –– not much to blame here. However, when these thoughts give way to absolute apprehension to what seems to be a sound and logical solution, the anti-vax mentality comes into play. Partaking in vaccinations does not mean giving up control of your body. Rather, it enables individuals to take collective responsibility of public health and well-being.

It is commendable to hold belief in the human body’s potential to heal itself –– but at some point, it is not enough. We are capable of fighting the common cold. In fact, no external medicine is even necessary in that case. We ought to recognise when things are (far more) serious than that situation, like this ongoing pandemic. As complex the human body may be to resolve its own issues, it is equally susceptible to new ones that have not been experienced before.

Indeed, it has been proven that the vaccine is not your sure-shot protection from COVID-19. One may be infected after both doses, too. “The vaccine at least reduces the severity of the infection and chances of mortality,” said Dr Avdhesh Bansal in an New Indian Express article.

There are lots of takeaways from this statement –– firstly, the reduction in severity means that patients will not have to be admitted in healthcare facilities, leading to a somewhat of an un-burdening. The system is crushed with cases with no respite for workers or patients. Secondly, the mortality rate itself will see a decrease if the cases are mild. Finally, the encompassing fear that exists among the population should experience a decrease, too –– this is not to say that one must take the precautions lightly.

Anarchy For Freedom, in this Instagram Live session attempts to justify the apparent false need for vaccinations and preventative measures such as masks –– almost entirely opposite to what is believed and instructed by scientists and health care workers.

Looking through some anti-vax Instagram pages, a common theme is that of undermining the reality of the Coronavirus –– from trivialising the need of lockdowns and masks to creating doubt about the existence of the virus altogether. Conspiracy theories around the vaccine and its effects often taint the purpose of it and cause distrust –– we all know how social media can be a catalyst for this. ‘Whatsapp University’ will tell you all about why you should not take the vaccine, almost always with no proof of concept.

Here is a news bulletin by CBS News that sheds light on this.

Far too many people have lost their lives fighting this virus for us to think that its solution is more harmful. The anti-vax community and their thoughts pose a threat to the collective progress against COVID-19 –– no one truly is safe until we all are.

We urge you to register yourself to get vaccinated at the earliest, and encourage others to do so, too. It is India’s only chance at getting back up on its feet. 

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