Police in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh is tagging those who haven't gotten the coronavirus vaccine with a skull symbol and the phrase "keep away from me" as part of an aggressive vaccine awareness campaign that has prompted some criticism.

This has caused quite a stir. Residents believe the state government should first verify that immunizations are available to the people before publicly embarrassing them for not availing it. 

A local resident, Rudra Pratap Singh, said that it was the government’s responsibility to first make the vaccines available to the people, “People are not getting vaccinated as there is a limited supply of vaccines in the district. It is wrong to blame the public for that,” he told Hindustan Times.

The police conducted random road inspections and inquired about people's vaccination status. Those who had received the vaccine were given a tricolor badge which is the Indian flag and read, "I'm a nationalist because I'm vaccinated," the Independent reported. But those who had not inoculated themselves were identified and forced to wear a pamphlet with a skull sign, warning people to stay away from them because of their vaccination status. 

The initiative, according to Superintendent Alok Kumar Singh, is aimed at assisting people in overcoming vaccine phobia, particularly in rural regions. According to the Financial Express, Singh said, "It is one of several symbolic actions with the purpose of creating awareness." He added, though, that the order was only to hand over the poster and not to force anyone to wear it around their neck.

The move, which is part of a "Roko Toko (stop and remind) Campaign" to control the spread of Covid-19 in the area, has sparked outrage. Although the states have been allotted sufficient number of vaccine doses, the supply in vaccination centers might have run out of stock due to how governments manage their replenishment.

Santosh Patel, a sub-divisional police officer in Niwari, defended the campaign. He said that since the unlock process begins, which refers to the re-opening of the states and cities from the lockdown phase, the onus lies on the people to stop the infection from spreading. Patel said the police are forcing people to keep their distance, wear masks, and get themselves vaccinated. 

He used the pandemic as an example, saying that people should be aware of their responsibilities in the event of a potential third wave. Vaccination, according to Patel, is the only way to avoid the third wave.

Currently, only 4.2 percent of Niwari district's population between the ages of 18 and 44 has been vaccinated. The state government, as well as municipal governments, are working hard to urge people to be vaccinated. Times of India notes that India’s second wave of the pandemic may be waning, but the country is warned that the third wave would be as critical as the second.

mikael-seegen-jX6WXNkvsPs-unsplash Caution sign Photo by Mikael Seegen/Unsplash/Creative Commons