Manish Kumar said it wasn’t a coincidence that he was a part of the first batch of frontline staffers at the premier AIIMS to be vaccinated, all of whom received a jab of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin.(REUTERS)
Manish Kumar said it wasn’t a coincidence that he was a part of the first batch of frontline staffers at the premier AIIMS to be vaccinated, all of whom received a jab of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin.(REUTERS)

Manish Kumar first to take shot in Delhi

Manish Kumar on Saturday emerged as the face of a months-long global effort against time to develop an inoculation against the infection that has killed over two million people. He said he always believed in the efficacy and safety of the vaccine.
By shiv sunny, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 01:20 AM IST

While 34-year-old Manish Kumar, a sanitation worker at Delhi’s AIIMS, was vying to be among the first to receive a Covid-19 vaccine, his mother, Laxmi Rani, was dead against it. She didn’t want him to even be in the first batch to receive the jab. She even offered to trade places with him, given that she is employed as a sanitation worker at the same hospital.

But in the end, Rani relented. At 11.10am on Saturday, Kumar became the first resident of the national capital to get vaccinated against the coronavirus disease.

Kumar on Saturday emerged as the face of a months-long global effort against time to develop an inoculation against the infection that has killed over two million people. He said he always believed in the efficacy and safety of the vaccine.

“I have narrated my experience to over 50 journalists so far. Do you see any adverse impact on me?”

Kumar said it wasn’t a coincidence that he was a part of the first batch of frontline staffers at the premier All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) to be vaccinated, all of whom received a jab of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin.

“When I found out that members of my team were to be vaccinated, I volunteered to be on that list. My immediate supervisor wasn’t very excited about my confidence, but I wanted to serve as an example to my family and colleagues,” said Kumar, who has been a machine operator in AIIMS’ sanitation department for eight years now.

And when Kumar received a confirmatory text message on Friday, he approached his boss once again, with another request. “I urged my supervisor to let me be the first person from AIIMS to receive the vaccine, though I didn’t think I would be obliged,” he said.

Among those he encouraged to take the vaccine shot was his childhood friend Shaukat Ali, also a sanitation worker at the hospital. “I have had three surgeries and was very scared to take the vaccine,” Ali said, even as he stood on his toes to record a video of Kumar getting the jab.

In fact, like Laxmi Rani, Ali too urged him against taking the shot till as late as 9am on Saturday, for fear of any potential adverse effects. But like Laxmi Rani, Ali relented too.

“I told him to watch me receive the vaccine and get inspired,” said Kumar.

Early on Saturday, Ali became one of the recipients of the Covid-19 vaccine as well.

Kumar said he hid the vaccination plan from his family till Wednesday, when his announcement met with mixed responses.

Apart from his mother, his wife also took some cajoling to give in to his plan. “Eventually, she said she would stand on the sidelines and watch me receive the vaccine,” said Kumar. However, they changed their minds later, and decided she would worry too much if she came to the vaccination centre.

Kumar’s Saturday began like any other working day over the past eight years. He caught a bus from Najafagarh, where he lives with his family, and arrived at AIIMS for the vaccination, as well as his regular duties.

He didn’t know that within hours though, he would be making news and even trending on Twitter.

His mother, too, was unaware of the fanfare that would eventually surround his vaccination. While Kumar was flanked by Union health minister Harsh Vardhan and AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria, his mother continued with her housekeeping work at the hospital.

Kumar kept himself masked while he was administered a dose of Covaxin, even as the gathering around him cheered. Soon after, he was whisked away to a room, away from the media’s glare and questions.

“There were three doctors around me for 30 minutes after the injection. They kept asking me about any reactions I might have been having.”

He was confident the vaccine was safe. But, he said, he knew the media’s glare would keep him in good stead.

“I knew the media was there. The Prime Minister was live just minutes before my vaccination. And the health minister was by my side. Even if a problem were to occur, they would ensure I was taken care of.”

He said him volunteering to be among the first to get the jab should dispel fears about the vaccine. “There are rumours on social media about the vaccine. I am fortunate to play a part in dispelling those rumours. There are no rashes on my body, no nausea, no pain, nothing.”

Despite Kumar and his mother working at AIIMS, and more relatives working at different hospitals in the city, neither he, nor anyone in his family, was touched by the virus. “But the fear of the virus was always there. We had witnessed deaths by this disease,” said Kumar.

Now, Kumar will go back to his daily duties at the hospital, even as several more get vaccinated there, as in the rest of the country. He will be back for the second and final dose of the vaccine 28 days later, at which point, doctors said, he can breathe easy.

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