The Divine Voice: A unique call to overcome vaccine hesitancy

Even as India rushes to reach its goal of vaccinating 100 per cent of the eligible population, there are many who are still hesitant to take the jab. Several reasons ranging from fear, misinformation, and ignorance are to blame. 

Concern India Foundation, a leading non-profit organization, recently launched a unique campaign in areas of Bangalore with high vaccine hesitancy. With help from community leaders, they created a unique audio appeal called the Divine Voice.  

The temples and mosques in India have speakers. These speakers usually broadcast prayers and holy messages. Concern India weaved vaccination messages into these prayers. These messages were then broadcast live through these speakers by the community leaders themselves. 

These passages from the Holy scriptures like The Bhagwad Gita and the Quran teach about overcoming fear, being a good human being and saving lives. 

Weaving the vaccination message into something so culturally relevant had a huge impact on people. It went beyond reason and appealed straight to their hearts.  

Pampa Chowdhury, Deputy Director at Concern India: “Though vaccines were available, there was a poor turnout in the vaccination camps. Our discussion with Ogilvy led to launching the campaign. Initially we were apprehensive whether it would work. But with immense cooperation from all the stake holders, the campaign worked. People showed up in numbers, creating a model that can be used as an awareness tool.” 

What the campaign is achieving is quite remarkable. Data from the recent drives held at Hajee Sir Ismail Sait Masjid in Frazer Town and Sri Gayathri Devi Temple in Yashwantpur is proof. According to Pampa Chowdhury, “Earlier only about 30 or so people would turn up for vaccination. But after the campaign, more than 200 people were vaccinated per day, and more were in waiting.” 

Encouraged by the success of the campaign, Concern India Foundation is looking to expand their Bangalore Model to more areas. Pampa Chowdhury adds, “We will continue with the vaccination drives using this model… religious influences can be a catalyst of social change.” 

Here is what some of the people associated with the vaccination campaign had to say -   

  •  “People come to temple for blessings… this time they were actually blessed with good health.” - Ashwath Kumar, Managing Trustee, Gayathri Devi Temple 
  • “Audio messages made a big difference. For the first time, prayer and vaccination came together to give the best outcome.” Dr. Sayed Javed, Medical Director, HSIS Mosque Trust 
  • We had the highest response… these camps should go on.” Suhail Sait, Secretary, HSIS Mosque 

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