‘Glad we took it’: Odisha couple urges others to dispel rumours about vaccine
Last year, Shiva Prasad Rath lost three relatives — a sister and two brothers-in-law — to the coronavirus disease. “All in a period of eight months,” said Rath, a 73-year-old former government employee from Odisha. “It was just horrific.”
Rath lives with his wife, Swapna (64), in Bhubaneswar. The Raths could not attend the last rites of their relatives, two of which took place in September. In November, another sister and brother-in-law were hospitalised; this time, his sister survived, but her husband died.
At the time, the caseload in Odisha was 294,457; as of April 6, 2021, the number of cases in the state is 343,856 and 1,975 people have died till date.
“It was so scary,” said Swapna, a teacher, who stopped giving tuition classes when the lockdown began on March 25, 2020. “I didn’t even see the front gate of my house [for several months],” Rath said, alluding to how they stayed indoors through the lockdown and even after it was lifted. They got their vegetables delivered, they put off a visit to the cardiologist — necessary for Rath who had a stent inserted a decade ago — and they avoided all public places, including temples.
The fear, said the Raths, was also driven by the number of messages over social media messaging platforms that began to circulate shortly after the vaccination drive started in the country. “There were so many videos and messages. One said that people with high blood pressure would fall down senseless after getting a shot; one said there were no guarantees of whether there would be any side-effects after vaccination,” Swapna said.
Rath had an additional worry. The Covaxin fact sheet states that people on blood thinners should inform their health care providers. Initially, this led to widespread confusion about whether there were certain drugs that had contraindications for vaccination. The ICMR subsequently issued a clarification towards the end of January that both Covid vaccines — Covaxin and Covishield — approved for use in India were safe for people on such medication.
All the same, Rath went to a doctor just to be sure, and the doctor advised him to take the jab.
On March 25, the Raths visited a vaccination centre at the Hi-Tech Medical College & Hospital, close to their home, and got their first dose of the vaccine. “The process was very easy,” Rath said.
Rath experienced some degree of tiredness after taking the shot. “I think it was psychological...,” Swapna said, adding that she only felt a little pain in the arm after the shot.
The companies manufacturing these vaccines — Bharat Biotech (Covaxin) and Serum Institute of India (Covishield) — have published a list of possible side effects the respective vaccines could lead to. These range from pain at the injection site to chills, body ache and nausea.
It was a very good thought, Swapna said, to think of senior citizens as the first group after health care workers, to get the shot. The main lesson from the pandemic, Swapna said, was that it is possible to take care of oneself — healthy diet, regular exercise, and “wearing masks at all times” but that “a little bit of fear [of the pandemic] is also a good thing, because it ensures that we follow rules”.
The Raths rue the fact that the “younger generation” doesn’t wear masks or maintains social distancing anymore.
“But there is nothing scary about taking the vaccine. We’re glad we did it, said Swapna.