Ram Babu, a sanitary attendant at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, IGIMS, displaying the certificate he received after taking the first shot of vaccine against coronavirus, in Patna on Saturday.(HT photo)
Ram Babu, a sanitary attendant at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, IGIMS, displaying the certificate he received after taking the first shot of vaccine against coronavirus, in Patna on Saturday.(HT photo)

'Don’t fear, it’s safe,' says sanitary staff who gets first vaccine jab in Bihar

  • 35-year-old Babu was the first to receive the jab among 4.64 lakh healthcare workers in Bihar on Saturday.
By Ruchir Kumar, Patna
UPDATED ON JAN 16, 2021 08:32 PM IST

He normally doesn’t pray every morning but having got up early on Saturday, he said a silent prayer before stepping out of his cramped one-room rented accommodation at Raja Bazar in Patna.

“There was a little scepticism amid the euphoria of being the first in the state to be inoculated against coronavirus disease (Covid-19),” said Ram Babu, 35, alias ‘Bikki’, an outsourced sanitary attendant who has been working at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (IGIMS) for over 15 years.

Babu earns a measly amount of 8,500 every month to support his children Supriya Kumari (7), Vaasu (4) and Anurag (2), and wife, Soni Devi, 28. His wife, a homemaker, had contracted the virus last July. Babu was the first to receive the jab among 4.64 lakh healthcare workers in Bihar on Saturday.

“I am perfectly fine. There is nothing to fear about the vaccine. I will request all to take the shot. I wish my family could also be vaccinated at this stage itself,” said Babu, holding a red rose as he sat in the observation room for over 90 minutes after vaccination. He was swarmed by shutterbugs and newshounds who were trying to take his soundbite.

Also read: In bid to meet vaccine needs of other nations, India’s neighbours to be priority

That he would acquire a celebrity status never came to Babu’s mind when he was randomly selected for the first day of the vaccination drive.

“Two days prior to the vaccination, I got the first communication through my department (preventive and social medicine at IGIMS). A day later, the Bihar health minister was on phone and asked me if I could come to the State Health Society to be introduced to the media. Though I agreed, I didn’t understand till then what was happening. Today, when I look back, I feel very happy about it,” said Babu, who took the shot of Serum Institute’s Covishield in the presence of chief minister Nitish Kumar.

Babu’s wife was equally happy that her husband had become the cynosure of all eyes.

“I wish my children and I were also vaccinated at this stage itself,” she said.

With colleagues like Neeraj, 21, an electrical attendant, requesting to be photographed alongside Babu, the sanitary attendant knew that God has answered his prayers.

Talking about the initiative to get an outsourced sanitary staff vaccinated first, Bihar’s principal secretary, health, Pratyaya Amrit said, “They are the unsung heroes. People don’t see their work. The sanitary employees have toiled day and night through the pandemic. These unsung heroes have played a vital role in controlling the spread of the contagion, and Bihar is in a much better condition today.”

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