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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

In Himachal’s feat of hitting 100% target of first vaccine dose, a health worker’s remarkable role

Posted at the District Hospital, Una, this 52-year-old health worker has been working against many odds -- procedural as well as personal.

Written by Rajesh Chander Sharma | Una |
September 2, 2021 6:07:54 am
52-year-old health worker Karmo Devi administering the Covid vaccine to a beneficiary.

WHEN PRIME Minister Narendra Modi virtually addresses frontline workers of Himachal Pradesh — the first state in the country to achieve the 100 per cent target of administering the first dose of vaccine for 18 years and above — on September 6, Karmo Devi’s effort will stand out.

Posted at the District Hospital, Una, this 52-year-old health worker has been working against many odds — procedural as well as personal. And at the end of the day, she has achieved a remarkable feat: of the 35,182 doses administered at the hospital, she alone is responsible for 21,881 doses.

Dr Nikhil Sharma, medical officer of health, who is in charge of the vaccination drive in the district, says: “When vaccination started in January, my staff members were scared of the virus. But Karmo Devi willingly came forward, and that solved my problem. In fact, many problems: initially, the CoWin portal was not behaving as it should and the people were getting restless. She was soft and sweet with the people. She managed them well. To overcome the portal hiccups, she would jot down details of the beneficiaries manually and enter them in the computer after the vaccination session. Even the government guidelines on manual recording of beneficiary details came late.”

Wasn’t she scared of the virus? “I knew vaccination is the only safeguard and the only solution. So, I just took precautions and did my job,” says Devi.

From March till May, she recalls, she had to work without a break. “Even on Sundays and gazetted holidays, I had to work because there was a lot of work pressure and there was a lot of fear of the second wave,” she says.

Then, on July 4, Devi fractured her right ankle while on duty. She was advised four weeks’ rest. But she was back to work after eight days.

“She is a dedicated worker. She kept on taking medicines and kept on working. During those eight days that she was away, we managed somehow but we missed her,” says Dr Raman Kumar Sharma, chief medical officer.

The hospital administration was grateful to Devi and provided her pick-up and drop facility whenever she needed it.

The only difference the injury made was this: Earlier, she used to administer vaccine in a standing position. Now she does the same while seated.

Devi herself vaccinated her family members. Her husband is a retired Hindi lecturer and her son, Navpreet Singh, 26, is a software engineer with Wipro, Gurgaon. For the last one year, he has been working from their home at Rakkar Colony, Una. Even he did not stop her from stepping out when the ferocious second wave was wreaking havoc.

“We were worried about her. But at the same time, we encouraged her because we knew someone has to do this job,” says Singh. “I felt very happy when I got both my doses of vaccine from my mother. I clicked selfies with her and cherish those moments.”

Now Devi is looking forward to the virtual interaction with Modi. “Agar mujhe Pradhanmantriji se baat karne ka mauka milta hai, to main apane aap ko saubhagyashali maanugi (If I get a chance to speak to the Prime Minister, I will consider myself lucky),” she says.

‘Credit goes to frontline workers’

Himachal Pradesh Health Minister Dr Rajiv Saizal says the achievement has been possible due to the efforts of frontline workers of the state. The government focused on IEC (information, education and communication) activities to fight against Covid-19. “During the first wave, we started a drive of active case finding. Our Aanganwadi and ASHA workers played an important role in this drive. Frontline workers reached remote areas on foot, carrying boxes of vaccines. When the second wave came, we launched Him Surkasha campaign wherein our teams made people aware of the importance of Covid-appropriate behaviour. It has been teamwork and the credit goes to the frontline workers.”

Health Secretary Amitabh Awasthi says there are more than 13,000 health workers in the state, of whom 9,100 are women. “We have passed this milestone because of great teamwork,” he adds.

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