‘I Would Rather Die’: Villagers Hide From Health Care Workers, Reject Vaccination In Rural India

ALLAHABAD, INDIA - JUNE 05: An ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist doctor inspects a patient before surgery to remove mucormycosis from the patient. (Photo by Ritesh Shukla/Getty Images)

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Vaccine hesitancy among the rural population of India could jeopardize the country’s recovery from a disastrous outbreak, experts say according to a Monday report.

Only 5% of Indians have been vaccinated against the virus, which has killed 386,000 people in the South Asian country, according to the official data. However, the real number of those killed by the outbreak in the world’s second-most populous country is believed to be much higher, according to The Associated Press (AP).

Around two-thirds of India’s nearly 1.4 billion population live in rural areas, where misinformation and lack of trust in the government have largely stalled the country’s vaccination efforts, the AP reported.

“I would rather die than take the vaccine,” Manju Kol, a villager in the state of Uttar Pradesh, said when approached by a team of health workers intending to administer a coronavirus vaccine.

Kol reportedly took her kids and escaped to the nearby forest, where the family hid until the health workers left the village, according to the AP. (RELATED: ‘Exceptionally Dangerous’: Dr. Vin Gupta Calls India’s Coronavirus Surge ‘A Once In A Century Crisis’)

“We have to convince people, go door to door, and rely on people who have taken the vaccine to spread the word,” Yogesh Kalkonde, a public health doctor in a tribal area of the state of Maharashtra, said.

“It’s an extremely slow process,” Kalkonde said of addressing the mounting hostility to vaccines in India’s rural villages, where people reportedly believe that the virus can spread only in urban areas, according to the AP.

“People tell us to leave or they would beat us. Sometimes they also throw stones and bricks at us,” government-appointed nurse Vibha Singh said, the AP reported.