Deep-rooted mistrust in the Malaysian federal and state governments is preventing many Indigenous Penan people from accepting the COVID-19 vaccine. While there have been reports of some individuals traveling up to 140 kilometers (87 miles) to the nearest vaccination clinic, many Penan in the Bornean state of Sarawak are reportedly wary of accepting vaccines after decades of losing the forests they call home to state-owned and private timber companies. “The two main reasons the Penan aren’t getting vaccinated is that they don’t have enough information and they don’t trust the government because of dealings in the past,” Peter Kallang of Sarawak-based NGO Save Rivers told Mongabay. A Penan village roadblock in 2008. Since the 1980s, Penan and other indigenous groups in Sarawak have resorted to blockades in attempts to halt logging and dam construction on their land. Penan have been arrested, beaten and even killed during such protests. Image by Friends of the Earth International via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). Most Penan live in rural areas, a double-edged sword during the pandemic: while avoiding urban centers limits their exposure to the virus, the great distances between their homes and the nearest hospital or clinic results in limited available medical care — and limited available medical knowledge. There have also been worrying reports of anti-vaccine videos spreading on WhatsApp, the mobile messaging app, deepening these communities’ mistrust. Activists are sounding the alarm that the Sarawak state government needs to better inform these communities about the dangers of COVID-19 and the necessity…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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