Misinformation, particularly spread by WhatsApp groups, has led some to believe that vaccines have side effects such as infertility or magnetism. Opposition figures trying to score political points against the government have amplified concerns.
In some corners, cow dung, lemon juice, oils and herbs have been promoted as remedies. Commercial-minded religious gurus have been pushing their own products as Covid cures, once even with the help of Mr Modi’s Minister of Health. In a music video, Baba Ramdev, a religious entrepreneur, mocks modern science and falsely claims that 1,000 doctors have died after taking the vaccine.
The three villages in Uttar Pradesh reflect the problem. A health official said teams have set up vaccination clinics in villages with a daily capacity of 100 to 200 doses. But every day supplies are barely touched. The official read in the register of one of the villages: 10 doses one day, five the next day, two the next day.
In one of the villages, Dautai, the doctor from the local clinic, Ahmad Arsalan, went door to door with the elders to answer questions. Ishrat Ali, the head of the local school, said a friend of his had read that anyone who took the vaccine would die within two years.
“I told him, ‘OK, the doctors got the vaccine, the police got the shot, everyone got the shot. If they all die, what are you going to do living here alone? ‘ Mr. Ali said, recalling his convincing argument with a chuckle.
Rajveer Singh Tyagi, a village chief in Khilwai who had helped gather testing resources to contain the spread, said it had been difficult to persuade people to react in the same way to the vaccination campaign.