Updated: January 16, 2021 7:45:13 pm
As the Prime Minister’s speech, being broadcast live at the Government Girls Primary School in Gurgaon, came to an end Saturday morning, 47-year-old Radha Chaudhary, a sanitation worker at the Primary Health Centre in Wazirabad, got up from her seat in the crowd and walked to ‘Vaccination Officer –I’, who was seated outside one of the classrooms.
After showing her documentation and getting her details cross-checked in the list of beneficiaries, Chaudhary walked into a second classroom, where her details were uploaded on the Covid portal. Once this was done, she crossed a green portable curtain set up in the room and emerged moments later as the first person in Gurgaon to have been administered the coronavirus vaccine.
A mother of three, Chaudhary said, “I have not yet contracted coronavirus, but my work is such that I am constantly in areas that have a lot of footfall. As such, I did not think twice when I heard I was eligible to get the vaccine. I urge everyone to get it. I am not too concerned about the side effects. I trust the authorities and believe the vaccination can only help.”
The road to a decision whether or not to get vaccinated, however, has not been as seamless for all the beneficiaries in Gurgaon. For Poonam Sharma, an anganwadi worker, the final nod came after much discussion with her relatives.
“My seniors had told us that we would be eligible for the vaccine, but I was in two minds about it because I had been reading and hearing a lot about the side effects. My heart was telling me one thing and my mind another, but in the end I decided to take the chance. It is unclear how effective the vaccine is, but these are chances we take with every other medicine or vaccine as well. If there is a chance something can protect us, why not take it?” said Sharma.
Although she has never tested positive for coronavirus, Sharma is among those who suspects she had contracted the infection in the initial days. In early March, she developed a fever and loss of taste, both of which she later discovered were symptoms of Covid-19.
“Until now I have been living very carefully because I stay in the same house as my husband, two children, and father-in-law. They keep a bucket of water and a mug for me ready when I get home. I enter home and first take a bath. Only after that do I interact with anyone. I will continue to follow the precautions, but mentally I will be more at ease now,” she said.
Ambuj Pandey, a 47-year-old Asha worker, reiterated this. Seated in the observation room after getting her first vaccine shot Saturday, she said, “The nature of our work is such that there is a lot of exposure. We have to go from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, meet people face-to-face. We have been actively involved in Covid duty as well. So when this vaccine came, there was no doubt in my mind that I had to take it. I know some people are scared if we can trust it, but I believe we are scared even without the vaccine because there is the fear of getting coronavirus. It is better to try this layer of protection. I will come back next month for the second shot.”
According to officials, the vaccine was administered at six centres in Gurgaon Saturday, with around a 100 people being vaccinated at each centre. Officials said that on Monday, the number of centres will be increased to 46, with the vaccine being administered on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. In the following week, the vaccination will be held at 32 centres in total, followed by 31 centres in the third week.
“As the number of beneficiaries decreases, so will the number of vaccination centres. Around 100 people will be vaccinated daily at each centre,” said Dr Virender Yadav, Civil Surgeon of Gurgaon.
Dr Yadav himself was the second beneficiary of the vaccine, stating he decided to get vaccinated in the hope of “removing doubts of people and instilling confidence in the vaccine”.
District Immunisation Officer Dr MP Singh also volunteered for the vaccine for the same reason on day one. “Two doses of the vaccine are to be given to each person. Initially, 25,000 health workers will be vaccinated. Health workers who have been given the vaccine today are also being given a slip which has two numbers, on which they can contact authorities if there is any difficulty,” said the Civil Surgeon, adding that “no person had any problem because of the vaccine” Saturday.
At Medanta – The Medicity, another centre for vaccination, among the first to be administered the vaccine was cardiologist Dr Naresh Trehan.
“It is crucial for everyone to get this vaccine to protect their relatives and society. In terms of safety, it does not seem that there will be any difficulty. If there is anything such as pain or light fever, it is natural. It shows that the medicine is working,” he said.
As Dr Trehan was being administered the vaccine at Medanta, at the vaccination centre at Government Girls School in Wazirabad, Radha Chaudhary walked out of the observation room, half-an-hour after being administered her first shot.
As she walked out into the sun, other beneficiaries waiting in line called out to her, enquiring how she felt. Chaudhary lifted both her hands and gave them a double thumbs up, smiling widely.
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