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Friday, March 05, 2021

Nurse in Kerala, surgeon in Kashmir –– meet frontline workers who got first jabs of Covid vaccine

The Sunday Express meets some of the first recipients of the Covaxin and Covishield vaccines — from a health officer in a remote Arunachal district to a community worker in Naxal-hit Dantewada

Written by Hamza Khan , Shaju Philip , Gargi Verma , Tabassum Barnagarwala , Abhishek Saha | New Delhi |
Updated: January 17, 2021 3:00:43 pm
Nurse in Kerala, surgeon in Kashmir –– meet frontline workers who got first jabs of Covid vaccineNisha, who has been working as a nurse in Kerala since 2001, received a message on Friday about being selected for Day 1 of the vaccination drive.

Written by Hamza Khan, Shaju Philip, Gargi Verma, Tabassum Barnagarwala, Abhishek Saha, Bashaarat Masood

A year into a pandemic that upended lives and livelihoods, an entire nation saw the first signs of hope as frontline workers signed up for the inaugural session of a nationwide vaccination programme against Covid-19. The Sunday Express meets some of the first recipients of the Covaxin and Covishield vaccines — from a health officer in a remote Arunachal district to a community worker in Naxal-hit Dantewada

As many as 1.91 lakh beneficiaries comprising healthcare and frontline workers were inoculated on Saturday, as India rolled out the world’s largest vaccination drive against the Covid-19 pandemic that has killed more than 1.5 lakh people and upended millions of lives in the country.

According to the Union Home Ministry, a total of 16,755 personnel were involved in organising 3,351 vaccination sessions across the country. The 11 states and union territories where both Covishield and Covaxin were administered were Assam (65 sessions), Bihar (301), Delhi (81), Haryana (77), Karnataka (242), Maharashtra (285), Odisha (161), Rajasthan (167) Tamil Nadu (160), Telangana (14) and Uttar Pradesh (317).

Rolling out the inoculation drive, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the emergency use authorisation was given to the two ‘Made in India’ vaccines only after scientists were convinced of their safety and effectiveness. The vaccines will ensure a decisive victory for the country over the coronavirus pandemic, he said.

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India plans to administer Covid-19 vaccine to three crore frontline workers in phase. Know details about the first recipients.

15:00 (IST)17 Jan 2021
Shailendra Dwivedi, 41, Ward assistant , Dehradun

Lalmani Verma reports: 

On January 16, Shailendra Dwivedi was the first one to get the Covid-19 vaccine shot at Doon Hospital. “I prayed before coming to hospital. After I got the shot, I felt a sense of relief and satisfaction. I am more relaxed, I now know that the coronavirus is not going to infect me,” he says after getting vaccinated.

Dwivedi was responsible for over a dozen wards at the hospitals. “While my work does not bring me in direct contact with the patients, I was scared because I regularly visited wards to collect files of patients, meet doctors, and ended up using the same passage and elevators used by everyone. In fact, I had to get myself tested three times, but fortunately it was always negative,” he says.

He also ensured that he did not enter his house before taking a bath. “I wanted to protect my wife and two daughters from the virus,” he says, adding that he ate healthy meals to boost his immunity and keep the infection away.  

WHY THE VACCINE: Dwivedi says he didn’t have any doubts about the vaccine. “In fact, I am grateful that I was first on the list at my hospital to get the shot. I was very excited when I received a message on my phone that I had to come to the hospital on January 16 for vaccination,” he says, adding that the doctors had told him not come to the hospital on an “empty stomach.” “I will resume my work… I feel healthy. I trust our scientists. All my vitals are normal after vaccination,” he signs off.  


14:55 (IST)17 Jan 2021
Sunita Dass, 50, Nurse, Dehradun

Lalmani Verma reports:

“When I was in home isolation for a week after testing positive for Covid-19, I got very concerned about our future. I began to think about Covid-19 patients who came to the ward, and those who passed away. I wondered what would happen if a vaccine wasn't cleared in time and everyone got infected,” recalls Sunita, moments after getting vaccinated for Covid-19. She has been working as a nurse for 17 years.

“But I had to trust our scientists, doctors and God. Fortunately, after almost 10 months, I got the vaccine shot. I now wish that more doses are delivered soon and my husband and children get vaccinated too,” smiles Sunita, adding that her family had no apprehensions about the vaccine. “My husband would drop me to the hospital every morning. But today I came alone because he had to go somewhere urgently. He was a little upset,” she says.

For several months now, as a nurse in the Emergency Ward, the PPE kit, gloves and face shield had become a part of Sunita’s uniform. “I had told my six-year-old daughter to maintain physical distance from me. But despite taking all the precautions during my hectic six-hour shifts, I contracted the virus in November last year. I had fever and breathlessness,” she recounts. As Sunita isolated herself at home, her husband, son (16) and daughter also tested positive. “But I stayed calm and we recovered soon,” she says.

WHY THE VACCINE: “This is not the time to raise questions over the vaccine’s efficacy. It’s just the beginning and people should trust scientists and get the vaccine shot. Like the polio vaccine eradicated the disease, the Covid-19 vaccine will do the same,” Sunita says.

10:23 (IST)17 Jan 2021
J Ismail Khan, 51, Chennai, Tamil Nadu

Arun Janardhanan reports:

J Ismail Khan, 51, who works as a security staff-cum-assistant at the outpatient department of Omandurar Medical College Hospital, was one of the many health workers who received the vaccine on Saturday. At one point Khan even had mild symptoms. He says, “I was tested and the result was negative. After taking rest for a couple of days, I was back at work.”

Khan lives with his wife and four-year-old daughter in the city. “There were difficulties. There have been days when I struggled to get milk for my daughter. But on the whole, the journey in the past 10 months has been smooth. There was no problem with salary and we managed to get food supply,” says the 51-year-old.

While serving in the hospital’s OPD, Khan became friends with many patients who arrived for Covid-19 treatment. Since the outbreak, he witnessed several deaths too. “Many of them I knew died. But many more returned home. Luckily, none of my colleagues was affected. None of them lost their lives,” he says.

Since the pandemic hit the state, Khan, who has been working in the hospital for the past six years, sacrificed even his routine breaks from work, only occasionally taking a holiday for a day or two when he was “too exhausted”.

However, the risk of the job, he says, never got to him.

“There was no fear as such. Despite difficulties, we kept working in the middle of the pandemic. There was no reason to panic. The aim was to work hard and be safe,” he says.

10:21 (IST)17 Jan 2021
Dr R Jayanthi, Chennai, Tamil Nadu

Arun Janardhanan reports:

R Jayanthi, the then chief of the Madras Medical College and the affiliated Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital, led the team of doctors that treated the state’s first Covid-19 patient, who was admitted on March 8, 2020. The patient, who had arrived from Oman, was treated successfully and sent back home.

One of the senior-most doctors in Tamil Nadu, Jayanthi was at the forefront to prepare her hospital and staff for the tough days that were to come. Since the beginning of the pandemic, she has not taken a single day off from work. On Saturday, she received the Covid-19 vaccine at Chennai’s Omandurar Medical College.

Omandurar was the state’s first Covid hospital and Jayanthi took charge as its dean in July 2020.

“This was the day we were waiting for. I am happy to receive the vaccine here. I think it is my moral responsibility as there are lots of apprehensions among people as well as frontline workers… By taking this vaccine, we are setting an example. We have been preparing infrastructure for this vaccination drive for the past few months,” she says.

Jayanthi admits that there were apprehensions even in her own home. “Expressing their fears about vaccination, my family suggested that I should wait and watch… But I told them that it is not only my moral responsibility but also my duty as the head of the institution to lead the drive,” she says.

Jayanthi says she lost many of her colleagues including professors to Covid-19. “I lost a few of my elderly relatives too… But the number of people we saved is above all these losses. A junior colleague of mine, a physician, who was critical at one point thanked me and said that had it not been for our doctors he wouldn’t have seen the light of the new year. That was the most moving message I received. And it reflects what we have been doing for the past 10 months,” says the dean.

Why the vaccine: “Science has proven again that vaccines have stood the test of time. We may have mild reactions… But apart from that there is nothing to worry.”

04:42 (IST)17 Jan 2021
Nisha Hameed, 41, nurse, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
Nisha Hameed, 41, nurse, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala

Shaju Philip reports:

“Now, I feel like a soldier who has worn an armour,’’ smiles Nisha Hameed, as she emerges from the Government Women and Children’s Hospital, moments after getting a Covishield vaccine shot.

Nisha, who has been working as a nurse since 2001, received a message on Friday about being selected for Day 1 of the vaccination drive. “Some in my family circle tried to dissuade me… They wondered if getting vaccinated on the first day was a good idea. They thought that since there wasn’t enough data on the vaccines, I should wait,” she says.

But Nisha, who has been a government nurse since 2001, saw no reason to wait. “As health workers, we should show the way to others. When health workers get the vaccine first, it not only protects the frontline Covid-19 warriors, but also gives confidence to people to get vaccinated,’’ she says.

In the last four months, Kerala has recorded more than 7 lakh coronavirus infections, more than any other state in India. The state now has the highest number of active cases, comprising almost 30 per cent of India’s total.

Recalling her duty in Covid wards, Nisha says, “I have been on duty for five months. The early days were very difficult. Every day, I would leave home for work and it felt as if the virus was stalking me. The fear grew when some of my colleagues got infected. I always felt it would be my turn next.’’ She has so far not tested positive for Covid-19.

“While on duty in Covid wards, it’s difficult to take water and toilet breaks. On days that I had my periods, I thought I would collapse inside the PPE kit,” she says.

With her husband, S S Hameed, also a government nurse, Nisha would return home after long shifts to care for her children. “While most of my colleagues stayed back in the hospital or in hostels after their night shifts, I had to come back home,” says the mother of two children, aged 17 and 15.

On some occasions, says Nisha, her job created tension in her neighbourhood, with some residents fearing that she would bring the virus home. “But I had no time to pay attention to such anxieties. Doing my duty with all precautions was the main concern then,” she says.

But all that is in the past now, says Nisha. “Now, I have got the vaccine shot, all my fears and also of people around me have been put to rest. It will also encourage others to turn up at vaccination centres,” she says.

WHY THE VACCINE:“I can now take on Covid-19 duty without fear,” says Nisha. “I will continue taking precautions and maintain social distance, but during an emergency, when a PPE kit or face shield is not immediately available, I can confidently venture out to save a life.”

In Kerala, as on Jan 16

68,416: Active cases
8,42,843: Total cases
3,442: Total deaths

04:41 (IST)17 Jan 2021
Mustak Khan, 46 Chief Medical & Health Officer, Bhilwara, Rajasthan
Mustak Khan, 46 Chief Medical & Health Officer, Bhilwara, Rajasthan

Hamza Khan reports:

In March last year, when a private hospital in Bhilwara became the epicentre of a Covid-19 outbreak in Rajasthan, the district administration and health officials led by Mustak Khan, the district's Chief Medical and Health Officer, launched a “ruthless containment” strategy.

Over the next several days, Khan and his team conducted an exhaustive survey, zeroed in on suspected Covid cases and traced their contacts. Soon, the ‘Bhilwara containment model’ came to be known as a success story.

On Saturday, Khan again led from the front, signing up for the first dose of the Covishield vaccine against Covid-19. "By getting vaccinated first, I hope to build confidence among health workers. It is good that health workers are being vaccinated first, since they are at high risk. We will aim for 100 per cent vaccination in the district.

Over the last one year, while Khan witnessed several Covid cases and fatalities, the fear got real when his father tested positive late last year. "First, my father, who is 75 years old and diabetic, tested positive, and then I too tested positive. When you have the virus in your own home, you grow very fearful. I was very worried for my father since he was already immunocompromised," he says.

After 15 days in hospital, Khan's father recovered. "For me, the biggest lesson from this was that we can't approach it like just another disease. Its behaviour is unpredictable.

WHY THE VACCINE: “The vaccine is being launched after good results during trials. I believe there shouldn’t be any doubts regarding the vaccine.”

In Rajasthan, as on Jan 16

5,286: Active cases
3.14 lakh: Total cases
2,746: Total deaths

04:40 (IST)17 Jan 2021
Jayshree Shinde, 38 Cleaning staff at Jawahar Sub District Hospital, Palghar, Maharashtra
Jayshree Shinde, 38 Cleaning staff at Jawahar Sub District Hospital, Palghar, Maharashtra

Tabassum Barnagarwala reports:

Having finished her night duty in the sick newborn care unit, Shinde was asleep when a hospital nurse rang her up at 11 am. “We are going to start vaccination. Come soon.”

Shinde, a Class IV worker, walked the 10-minute distance from her house to Jawhar sub district hospital for the injection. Standing outside the vaccination centre and fighting off her sleep, she smiles, “I am excited. I have spent all of last year in fear.”

When the pandemic began, Shinde, a mother of two, was worried about whether her work would expose her to the virus. As a Class 4 employee earning Rs 7,000 a month, she had to clean Covid wards.

Maharashtra accounts for around 18 per cent of India’s Covid burden. Till September, the state’s high case load was solely responsible for India’s daily high numbers.

With her job putting her in direct contact with Covid patients, Shinde ensured she took all precautions.

“At the end of my shift, I would change my clothes at hospital, go home and bathe before going near my children,” she says.

Yet, four months ago, her nightmare came true. Her husband, a security guard in a private firm, got infected. “He has joined work now,” she says, adding, “Everyone in the village knew I worked as a helper in the hospital. So they stayed away.”

The stigma hurt, but on Saturday, Shinde had put much of that behind her. “I don’t understand much about the vaccine. My hospital told me that a vaccine is available, and I thought I must take it to save my family from infection,” she says.

WHY THE VACCINE: “I am not scared. It’s like the polio vaccine we give to children. That is what the nurses said.”

In Maharashtra, as on Jan 15

52,152: Active cases
19.84 lakh: Total cases
50,336: Total deaths

04:40 (IST)17 Jan 2021
Dr Mohsin Mushtaq, 40 Assistant Professor at Govt Medical College, Baramulla, Kashmir
Dr Mohsin Mushtaq, 40 Assistant Professor at Govt Medical College, Baramulla, Kashmir

Bashaarat Masood reports: 

Inside the vaccination ward of Government Medical College, a designated Covid hospital in J&K’s Baramulla district, there is a sense of unease. The doctors and paramedics chosen for the inaugural session of the nationwide vaccination programme discuss possible adverse reactions to the Covishield vaccine that is scheduled to be administered to them.

But one among them walks up and takes the chair meant for the vaccine beneficiaries — Dr Mohsin Mushtaq, Assistant Professor in the Department of Surgery at the medical college.

“We have to create trust among people about this vaccine. If the doctors are hesitant, how can you convince others to get vaccinated,” says the 40-year-old, after the nurse has dabbed some cotton on his arm.

But some of his colleagues are still not convinced. They start to leave.

“We have seen pharma companies coming up with vaccines for children… we never questioned them. There are several cancer drugs that we prescribe to patients. So why should we fear this vaccine? I would encourage everyone to get vaccinated whenever they get an opportunity. That is the only way to fight this disease and live a mask-free life," Mushtaq adds.

He would know. Over the last 10 months, the doctor has spent several days in the hospital, operating on Covid-positive patients.

“Operating on Covid-positive patients takes its toll, both physical and mental,” he says. “Some of these surgeries last several hours. Doing it in a PPE is gruelling. It’s stressful even at home since you are always hoping that you haven’t carried the virus home.”

He believes it’s luck, along with some basic protocol, that helped him keep the virus at bay for close to a year. Now, with a vaccine finally here, he doesn’t want to take any chances for himself and people around him.

WHY THE VACCINE: “We need to fight this disease. Don’t we need a life without fear and face masks?”

In J&K, as on Jan 16

1,280:Active cases
1,23,217: Total cases
1921: Total deaths

04:39 (IST)17 Jan 2021
Churri, 50, a community health volunteer (mitanin) in Jawanga village, Dantewada, Chhattisgarh
Churri, 50, a community health volunteer (mitanin) in Jawanga village, Dantewada, Chhattisgarh

Gargi Verma reports:

“I am fed up of wearing a mask. I trust the vaccine,” says Churri, as she prepares for the journey to the children’s hospital in her village, where she will join other healthcare workers to get the Covishield shot on the first day of the vaccination drive.

While the state had begun registration for vaccination in November, Churri says she did not expect to be called on the first day. “I got a call on Friday. I thought they would start with people in the cities,” she says, adding, “My son was scared and told me not to go on the first day, but I still came.”

Since the Covid-19 outbreak, mitanins or community health workers such as Churri have served as a crucial link between villagers and medical staff in remote areas of the country. The mother of three, and grandmother of five, was assigned 30 houses in her village and went door-to-door, telling families about Covid-19 precautions, among other things. “Washing hands, social distancing, we told people about all measures. We also have to ensure that children get immunised and lactating mothers got their vitamins,” says Churri, who has been a mitanin for over 10 years now.

The biggest challenge, she says, was to ensure that people visiting the village quarantined themselves. “I made sure that people, even extended family members, were allowed into the village only after the quarantine period,” she recounts.

Halfway through her journey to the vaccination centre, Churri halts at the Geedam-Dantewada road, looking confused. “We were told to come to the malnutrition hospital for children, but no one on the road seems to know where it is,” she says.

District administration officials said that since the list of people who would be vaccinated came late on Friday, they couldn’t alert everyone about directions. “We are now trying to reach out to as many people as possible and guide them to the centres,” said a district official overseeing the immunisation drive.

Around noon on Saturday, after traveling for an hour and covering over 25 km, Churri arrives at the vaccination centre. As she waits her turn, the 50-year-old reminisces about the time a barrier made of cloth and tree logs was put outside her village to stop the entry of those returning from outside. “All of 2020 has been about Covid-19. Our village had a couple of cases. The barrier was set up in March and we kept adding to it, with wires and wood,” she smiles.

WHY THE VACCINE: “Everyone is scared of needles a little, and I won’t say I am not scared. But I don’t think there will be any severe side effects of the vaccine. They wouldn’t have launched it if it wasn’t safe, would they have?” she asks.

In Chhattisgarh, as on Jan 15

6,923: Active cases
2,92,612: Total cases
3,544: Total deaths

04:38 (IST)17 Jan 2021
Dr Tope Yomcha, 53 District Reproductive and Child Health Officer, Namsai district, Arunachal Pradesh
Dr Tope Yomcha, 53 District Reproductive and Child Health Officer, Namsai district, Arunachal Pradesh

Abhishek Saha reports:

Dr Tope Yomcha has had to quarantine himself at a government facility in Namsai twice — in August and September last year — after coming into contact with Covid patients. But the worst phase of the pandemic was when his 19-year-old son tested positive a few days after returning home from his college in Guwahati.

“My son tested positive as did four of my college-going nephews, including two who live with me. Even now, my wife remains in constant fear because I stand a risk of contracting the virus,” says Dr Yomcha over the phone from Namsai, one of the easternmost districts of the country, talking of a virus that spread across geographies and spared none.

“So, the vaccine means that all this suffering will come to an end soon,” he says.

It was this hope and optimism that got him to sign up for the vaccination programme that kicked off across the nation on Saturday.

Yomcha, who got his Covishield dose, has been at the forefront of the battle against Covid in Namsai, a small district with a population of 95,950 persons, according to the 2011 Census. While the district has so far only seen around 430 Covid cases, Yomcha says the actual numbers are much higher.

Over 1,000 people, mostly belonging to other districts of Arunachal or the neighbouring state of Assam, tested positive in Namsai, which acts as a getaway to other districts of the state such as Lohit and Dibang Valley.

Arunachal Pradesh has so far reported over 16,000 cases and 56 deaths. In the first phase, the state is vaccinating 900 people.

District administration officials said that during the pandemic, Yomcha played a key role in planning, executing and monitoring the testing and screening process.

“Our team in Namsai worked very hard during the pandemic. On several occasions, we have had to trek to remote locations of the district, sometimes early in the morning or late at night. Many of us have had to isolate ourselves several times,” he said.

WHY THE VACCINE: “This vaccine signifies that an alternative way to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the Covid virus is beginning.”

In Arunachal, as on Jan 16

64: Active cases
16,682: Total cases
56: Total deaths

04:36 (IST)17 Jan 2021
Santoshi Shirsat, Ramdas Mahad, Poonam Palvi & Deepa Devde from Maharashtra

Santoshi Shirsat

SHIRSAT, WHO works in the Integrated Child Development Services centre at Chembur, arrived at Rajawadi Hospital along with some other colleagues. While taking the shots, she wanted her photo to be clicked and requested one of the staff members to click photos from her phone. “I am excited and happy to get the vaccine. I hope people will not have to face the trauma that was caused by Covid-19,” Shirsat said.

Ramdas Mahad

ON SATURDAY, as he oversaw preparations from glitches in the CoWIN software to escorting local politicians, to asking all staff to be present for vaccination, Mahad said he “has mixed feelings” about the vaccine. “There is a scare and there is excitement about vaccination. I have been going through both,” he said. He was one of the 100 hospital staffers shortlisted for inoculation on Saturday in Jawhar. Mahad has closely followed the vaccine trials.

Poonam Palvi & Deepa Devde
Jawhar Sub-District Hospital

THE TWO staff nurses donned multiple hats on Saturday, from drawing rangoli at the vaccination centre’s entrance to cutting paper slips for tokens, from vaccinating other health workers with an intramuscular jab to getting the shot themselves, the two were vaccinators as well as beneficiaries as the immunisation drive against Covid-19 began across India.

“Since only two of us are trained here, I first vaccinated her and then she vaccinated me after returning from the observation room,” said Palvi.

After having treated a slew of patients from the tribal-dominated area, the two said they were happy to be vaccinated. “Vaccine is a good thing. We need it to reduce the caseload and there is no hesitation among any of us,” Devde said.

Both did not get the required text message stating that they were going to be beneficiaries. It was their bosses who asked them to get ready for the vaccination.

04:35 (IST)17 Jan 2021
Dr Bharti Rajulwala, Rajawadi Hospital, Maharashtra

Dr Bharti Rajulwala, Rajawadi Hospital

“EVERYBODY IS fighting the virus. I am happy that finally there is a vaccine that could bring normal life back. If this mass is successfully immunised, then we will be the winner in this fight…”

Recalling her losses due to Covid-19, she said, “People lost their loved ones in this pandemic. I lost my mother-in-law due to Covid. My son also tested positive for the virus.”

She added, “One of my colleagues lost three of her relatives in one month. This was a disaster.”

04:34 (IST)17 Jan 2021
Dr Jawahar Panjwani, BKC, Maharashtra
Dr Jawahar Panjwani, BKC, Maharashtra

DR PANJWANI has had an active orthopaedic practice for the past two decades. After his shot, Dr Panjwani claimed that the vaccination process was once in a lifetime experience for him.

“I will soon be back to work. This is a proud moment and we are thankful to the government for taking this initiative. But one thing I want to request, everyone should still wear a mask, maintain distancing and wash their hands even after being vaccinated,” said Dr Panjwani.

04:33 (IST)17 Jan 2021
Snehal Rane, BKC, Maharashtra
Snehal Rane, BKC, Maharashtra

A resident of Kalwa in Thane, Rane, who is set to retire soon, had a difficult time coping with the stress of seeing her fellow colleagues getting infected. “I have been working for 30 years with the BMC. But Covid-19 has shown us very difficult times. Many of my colleagues were infected due to the virus. Now I am happy that the vaccine has arrived. After getting a call from the BMC, I reached the centre early in the morning. We worked day and night during the peak of Covid-19,” said Rane.

04:32 (IST)17 Jan 2021
Shreyas Patel, Cooper Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra
Shreyas Patel, Cooper Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra

A PRACTICING dentist, Shreyash Patel decided to apply for the post of Covid assistant medical officer after reading about the civic body’s hiring during the pandemic. He was assigned work at MIDC in K-East ward of the city, primarily working in the Covid-19 war room set up by the BMC.

“The vaccination will help me explain the process better when I receive calls or have to go into the community in the next few months to explain its benefits,” Patel said.

04:31 (IST)17 Jan 2021
Kanchan Kokale, Dr VN Desai Hospital, Maharashtra

Kanchan Kokale, Dr VN Desai Hospital

WHEN THE pandemic was declared in March, Mulund resident Kanchan Kokale’s son was eight months old. “My constant worry was that I have spent the whole day working in crowded areas interacting with people to conduct tests, trace contacts of infected persons. Once I reached home, I took all precautions before meeting my son but those months were anxious for me as a mother,” Kokale said.

Among the first few beneficiaries at Dr VN Desai Hospital in Santacruz, Kokale waited for her turn from 9.30 am. “I was nervous about getting a vaccine till I came here.”

04:29 (IST)17 Jan 2021
Anita Borhad, JJ Hospital, Maharashtra

Anita Borhad, JJ Hospital

“Initially, after reading the message, I did rethink if I should get the vaccine immediately or wait a day. There was no fear, the vaccine is rolled out for health workers across the country, the government must have approved it after necessary trials,” Borhad said.

A resident of Pune, Borhad joined JJ Hospital last month from Pune’s Sassoon General Hospital. As a lab technician, Borhad was in charge of swab collection for Covid-19 test. Remembering the time when she quarantined herself and could not meet her children, Borhad said, “There is hope, now.”

04:29 (IST)17 Jan 2021
Sanjay Deshmukh, JJ Hospital, Maharashtra
Sanjay Deshmukh, JJ Hospital, Maharashtra

DESHMUKH WAS first among the staffers to arrive at the hospital at 9.30 am to get the first shot of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin. As the hospital staff completed last-minute arrangements to begin the vaccination process, Deshmukh allayed fears of those waiting with him.

Having survived Covid-19 and working at the frontline, Deshmukh appealed to people for confidence in the vaccine. “After suffering from fever for four days, I suddenly collapsed and was rushed to hospital, where my swab test showed that I was Covid-19 positive. For almost a month, I was on oxygen support. Getting Covaxin today was the least scary thing of my life.”

Deshmukh said he received a message from the hospital administration at 7 am on Saturday, stating that he was accepted for vaccination. Deshmukh was the sixth person to receive Covaxin at the centre.

04:25 (IST)17 Jan 2021
Dr Mangal More, Andheri, Maharashtra

Dr Mangal More, Andheri, Maharashtra

“It is the first day of vaccination across the country. We are lucky to be among the first few to be vaccinated,” said More, who has worked with the civic body for over five years.

Travelling to work was a challenge after the Mumbai local trains were shut in March. “Many of our community health workers took four hours to reach work by changing buses multiple times,” says More. But the biggest concern, she said, was the safety of her family. More lives in the Matunga labour camp area with her husband, his parents, two brothers and a six-year-old daughter in a small 275-square feet home. “Social distancing was very tough. Those days, I did not remove my mask even at home,” she says.

“It is the first day of vaccination across the country. We are lucky to be among the first few to be vaccinated,” said More, who has worked with the civic body for over five years.

Travelling to work was a challenge after the Mumbai local trains were shut in March. “Many of our community health workers took four hours to reach work by changing buses multiple times,” says More. But the biggest concern, she said, was the safety of her family. More lives in the Matunga labour camp area with her husband, his parents, two brothers and a six-year-old daughter in a small 275-square feet home. “Social distancing was very tough. Those days, I did not remove my mask even at home,” she says.

In May, both More and her in-laws tested positive. “I shifted my in-laws to a hospital. I quarantined myself by arranging for a separate room near my house. Thankfully, my daughter tested negative,” she said.

In May, both More and her in-laws tested positive. “I shifted my in-laws to a hospital. I quarantined myself by arranging for a separate room near my house. Thankfully, my daughter tested negative,” she said. --ENS

01:13 (IST)17 Jan 2021
Dr Vijay Mishra, 48, Ranchi, Jharkhand
Dr Vijay Mishra, 48, the first doctor to be vaccinated in Ranchi, Jharkhand

Abhishek Angad reports:

Since the pandemic and after private hospitals were allowed to treat COVID-19, 48-year-old doctor Vijay Mishra treated around 3000 COVID patients. He himself got infected with the virus. After he was inocculated, he added: "Vaccine is safe we all should take it...Before the process started they asked whether I had any co-morbid comdition allegergies."

"I too had questions initially about the vaccine, but fear went down slowly. During this one year a lot of things were done about it," said Mishra, who was the first doctor to be vaccinated in Ranchi.

He added that although there are certain anxieties among the public about the vaccine. He added: "There are two things which need to be considered for vaccination: Safety and Efficacy. It is safe and scientists are saying it has an efficacy of 80-95℅. However, it is bit early to gauge the efficacy, but as a doctor I decided be an example for others." He added that the district administration had called him for the vaccination.

Earlier this month, the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) had given its nod to Oxford/AstraZeneca’s Covishield vaccine which is manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, and the indigenously developed Covaxin from Bharat Biotech for ‘restricted emergency use’.

The vaccine will first be administered to an estimated one crore healthcare workers, and around two crore frontline workers, and then to persons above 50 years of age, followed by persons younger than 50 years of age with associated comorbidities.

Following the launch of the drive, Bharat Biotech, the manufacturer of Covaxin, said that the company will pay compensation to vaccine recipients in case of any serious adverse effects experienced after receiving the shot. In the consent form to be signed by the vaccine recipients, Bharat Biotech said, “In case of any adverse events or serious adverse events, you will be provided medically recognised standard of care in the government designated and authorised centres/hospitals.”

The statement from the Covaxin manufacturer comes after questions were raised over the efficacy of the vaccine as its phase 3 clinical trials are yet to be completed.

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