As India moves on from one milestone to another in its vaccination drive against Covid-19, LokMarg spoke to several senior citizens in Delhi-NCR about their experiences of getting the jab. Most of members interviewed said the entire process was well managed and orderly.
While some of them felt that a doctor’s presence at the vaccination point would have emboldened the beneficiaries, there was unanimity that the inoculation was organized in most professional way hitherto unseen at medical facilities.
Saroj Kumar, 49, a family welfare counsellor and frontline worker amid Covid-19 in Uttar Pradesh, is feeling relieved after receiving the vaccine on the first day of the immunisation drive
I work as family welfare counsellor at a Community Health Centre in Moradabad (Uttar Pradesh) and I can proudly say that healthcare sector workers like us have been the backbone of India’s fight against coronavirus. We faced the virus day in and day out without fear, hours on end.
It was therefore a big relief when the government announced that health professionals and other frontline workers would be vaccinated on priority. As a healthcare professional I was among the people to be vaccinated on January 16, the first day of the immunisation drive.
We had been asked to register ourselves a day prior to the vaccination and post-registration, I was told to reach the designated health centre for the serum shot. I reached the centre at 12:30 pm where my temperature and oxygen levels were checked the first thing at the gate. Next, I was given hand sanitisers and waited for my turn.
Once I was administered the vaccine jab, which hardly took a minute, I was kept under observation for around half an hour at the centre. Two girls who were making a note of the entry and exit timings of the vaccine beneficiaries, also checked if any of the vaccinated person showed any discomfort or adverse reaction. We had been told that there could be mild side-effects.
My workplace (the very centre I was vaccinated at) is nearly 60 km from home. On the vaccination day, I took the regular bus and faced no discomfort per se on the way. However, I ran mild fever after reaching home around evening. The fever lasted overnight and in the morning my body temperature returned to normal. I am feeling fit as a fiddle now.
During the pandemic when public transport wasn’t available, reaching my workplace was tough. So I had requested to be temporarily allowed to work at a health centre nearer home. The authorities were considerate and I was assigned work at the Chief Medical Office’s office closer home.
My new role was to take calls at the Help Centre. Since it was the beginning of the pandemic, we had to field hundreds of calls each day. So, I can tell you there was much anxiety among people and patients about both the pandemic and its prospective treatment or vaccine.
Now, I have been working with Covid-positive patients who are isolating at home. Every morning, a doctor, I visit these patients in our district and administer medicine to them as well as monitor their condition. Covid is contagious, but for most people, not deadly. Yet, people are scared as it has caused so many deaths.
I am glad that people like us will now feel completely free and safe after the twin vaccination shots, since we meet many Covid positive patients every day. I am not scared of the virus, but I do have a family of four to take care of. The vaccination process has brought me a lot of mental relief. Given how successful our polio vaccination programme was in the past, across the length and breadth of our country, I am sure we will win the fight against Covid too.
Dr Arun Gaur,medical superintendent of Mahatma Gandhi Hospital in Bhilwara, one of the first Covid hotspots in India, recounts the vaccination launch and the battle against the pandemic
For the vaccination on the launch day, January 16 that is, I personally invited the frontline staff enrolled for the serum shot. We had enrolled 900 persons from our hospital which not only included doctors but also nursing staff, lab technicians, computer operators, sweepers, guards and the canteen staff – in equal numbers. We included all these persons in the first list as this team has been working tirelessly since the pandemic outbreak in March, 2020.
I am proud to say that we successfully vaccinated 100 persons on the first day. There had been some apprehensions, even among frontline workers, regarding the vaccine and its after-effects. So, each person was kept under observation for half an hour after being vaccinated. I am glad that none of them showed any side effects.
So, after the process was over, we organised a guard of honour by the police band for the first batch. We also issued an appreciation certificate to all of them. The district administration also supported us in managing this. The district collector and SP had joined us and felicitated the workers.
Today, as I look back at our battle against pandemic, I take pride in our efforts. When Bhilwara became a Covid-19 hotspot, the challenges were unique and unknown. No one knew about the novel virus, how it spread, how a sample was to be collected, or how to treat the patient. But the challenges also motivated us to fight back. Fortunately, not a single case was referred to any outside facility. On the contrary, we saw patients coming in from other districts, even states, to Bhilwara for treatment in the past six months. I see this as an achievement.
We were greatly supported by our families, the administration, the state government and health workers. We formed a critical care team, made all decisions in a group, took suggestions from every faculty member be it a physician or a pediatrician and involved them. We were the first to start some of the investigations that were required in the treatment. We even managed a C-section of a Covid-19 patient who delivered twins. There were anxious moments about the new-born health but the infection was not transmitted.
The credit also goes to the state leadership. Our chief minister Ashok Gehlot was directly in contact with us after the district was declared a hotspot. He provided all necessary support that we required, including RT-PCR testing machines, 40 ventilators, other resources, and a help desk. The support from the media was also unprecedented.
I believe every achievement brings an extra responsibility on your shoulders. I still have to protect my team and patients because the expectation is high. Even before the second dose we get, we have to follow the prescribed preventive measures for another six months very strictly. We understand that 30 percent population has already been infected by the virus and when 30-40 percent population get vaccinated, the overall immunity will be more than 60 percent. Only then there could be some relief for all of us. Till that time, our fight against the pandemic is not over.
Mufti Mohammad Danish Qadri, 30, general secretary of Markazi Jammiyat-ehle Sunnat, says saving a life is of foremost importance and people must take part in vaccination wholeheartedly
Much like in other parts of the world, the business of fake news thrives in India too. The more important the matter is, the more fake news and misinformation it generates. Gullible men and women fall for what I call propaganda by Whatsapp University scholars. One such half-truth was that the recently launched vaccines for coronavirus contain gelatin (a product derived from pigs and considered haram or forbidden in Islam).
First, no such news has been confirmed; this is all fear-mongering. Second, even if the vaccines contained gelatin, it would be seen as a medicine, not food, which is meant to save lives. In Islam, saving lives is considered the highest obligation. Thus most Islamic scholars see no issue in this regard. In fact, in Islam if on an occasion like the current pandemic, offering namaz publicly is seen as unsafe, one can even forego namaz. Public health and safety come foremost. One must stay away from meddling faith into medicine.
Take for example, the polio vaccination programme started in the last decade. UNICEF officials approached muftis and other religious leaders to dispel the misinformation surrounding the programme. I am proud to say I was at the forefront of the immunisation programme. Without a healthy society, how will faith survive?
Nowadays, many people think science and religion (especially Islam) are in conflict with each other, but in the middle-ages it was Islam which made great progress towards surgery, anaesthesia and developing antiseptics. Even alcohol which is forbidden in Islam is allowed when used as a medicine.
People with shallow knowledge of the Quran and the Hadees can put people’s lives in danger. Islam takes law, health and emotional as well as financial development into account to create a stable society. Few people know that when the first plague to afflict the Islamic world, called the plague of Amwas (Amwas ta’un), broke out near Palestine, a strict lockdown kind of restriction was imposed to contain the spread. That was nearly 1,450 years ago.
So when people question about restrictions today, we tell them that communities, including Islamic, have respected scientific research and rules right from the beginning. The pandemic has been difficult for all of us, and the vaccination programme will only help people regain freedom.
Hygiene is also of tremendous importance in Islam which is why there is the concept of wuzu (ablutions) five times a day. Such traditions were formed for the health and wellbeing of society. So that when people offer namaz in public places, one infected person does not spread the contagion.
Some people say they distrust the vaccine because it is being brought by the BJP government. This is incorrect. Everyone needs vaccine and it must not be made a political issue. I am happy India has been able to develop its own vaccines. We should all volunteer to get ourselves vaccinated and not pose any inconvenience to healthcare workers. They have already been so overworked since last year to protect us.
For those who still look for religious sanction, I can assure them that in new or unforeseen circumstances (like coronavirus) Islam has the concept of qiyas (jurisprudence). And our jurisprudence says, vaccination is for the public good.
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