Nation receives a shot in the arm
From frontline army camps in Ladakh to sparse primary health care centres in the rural heartland, loud applause and cheers rang out in vaccination sites across the country on Saturday as roughly 190,000 frontline workers were inoculated against Covid-19 in what is billed to be the world’s biggest immunisation programme.
The workers were administered shots of either the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, made by Serum Institute of India (SII) and locally known as Covishield, or the Bharat Biotech-manufactured Covaxin. They will need to return for the second dose in 28 days. “This is a historic day. Every heath worker has given their hundred percent during this pandemic. Today we are happiest,” said Tulsa Tandi, a 51-year-old sanitation worker who was the first person to get the vaccine shot in Chhattisgarh.
Union Health ministry figures showed that roughly 191,181 people received doses at 3,351 sites. This was short of the 300,000-plus target but still well above numbers recorded by any other country on the first day of inoculation.
Among the first to receive the vaccine in various states included sanitation worker Saroj Bala in Haryana’s Panchkula, Dr Sudhir Bhandari in Jaipur, primary health care centre medical officer Mridul Das in Tripura, and hospital security guard Haridev Yadav in Bhopal. Vaccination rooms were decorated with flowers and balloons, the first beneficiaries were welcomed with ‘aarti’, garlands and sweets, and people posed with victory signs after receiving the shots as a sense of hope prevailed over the months of anxiety and uncertainty. Sweets and gift hampers were offered to people in several places. “I was a bit tense before the vaccination. But, now I am feeling good. People can trust the vaccine,” said Das.
Yadav said he felt lucky to get vaccinated. “When I was asked on Thursday morning, I said yes without thinking twice,” said Yadav, a contractual employee who is the sole bread-earner for a family of four.Many people said family members tried to dissuade them due to fears of side effects, but added that they went ahead to dispel rumours, especially in rural areas. “I am very happy. I felt no trouble and no side effects after the vaccination. I am going to join duty for the rest of the day,” said 29-year-old Mariyam Guria, a sanitation worker in Ranchi’s Sadar Hospital who was Jharkhand’s first person to get the vaccine.
Across India, a common protocol was followed. Officials verified a beneficiary’s identity before allowing him/her into the room.
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