‘Won’t Send My Child To School Till He Is Fully Vaccinated’

Anita Jha (39) did not send her 15-year-old son, studying is Class 10, to his school in Faridabad when it reopened after a gap of several months. She narrates the reasons behind her decision

On August 1, 2021 we received a communication from my son’s school that they were planning to reopen and asked us to convey if we would be willing to send our ward to the school. The notice also mentioned that the offline and online classes will continue simultaneously, and parent were free to choose any option.

I decided NOT to send my son to school.

The reason is simple: Saket, my son, is not vaccinated. I know virology experts say that even after vaccination, an infection may occur and we need to follow same prescribed precautions as earlier. However, the inoculation does provide the body a better ability to fight and defeat Covid-19 infection. And therefore a jab would have given us some assurance of our child’s safety.

Having stated my reasons, I fully support the government decision to reopen schools. Nothing can compensate a physical classroom when it comes to inclusive learning. But, till the time Saket is fully vaccinated I don’t want to take any risk. Some of my friends have chosen otherwise. In my son’s class of 37 students, about one fourth have chosen to attend the school. To each its own; let this be a personal choice for every parent.

Some people may argue that if parents can take their children to shopping malls, outdoor parks and other public spaces, what is the harm in sending them to a school. My counter to them is: in all such cases, the children are under direct supervision of the parents while at school, the children, either carelessly or under peer pressure, may throw caution to the wind.

Anita Jha says her son Saket improved his grades while attending online classes

This is what happened when the schools reopened last time. Infections soared and the government had to hastily retract their decision. We should have learnt our lessons from that.

I do not doubt the preparedness of the school. Over the last few months, my son went to school for collection of some study material and he told me that proper social distancing was being maintained and in one class they were asked to sit leaving two benches in between. And since only class 9-12 are called, social distancing norms are easily maintained.

ALSO READ: Online Classes Drain The Parents Completely

However, how does one keep a watch on the kids all the time? Even if a few children follow Covid-19 protocol, they cannot enforce similar pandemic-appropriate behavior on others in the absence of the teacher. We all know how teenagers are.

Besides, thanks to our access to high-speed Internet and other gadgets, I didn’t see any challenges in my son’s academic performance during online classes. In fact, there is now some self-discipline and improvement in his grades. If the purpose is taken care of by online class then why rush with offline learning in these uncertain times! Why can’t we wait till the vaccination of children is also complete?

It is not only about maintaining precautions in school premises. Not every family can afford a personal vehicle to pick and drop the child from school and hence they have to end up taking a shared or public transport. This increases the risk manifold.

Already, there have been talks of a looming third wave and new variants of the virus that may infect young children too. That worries me. Of course, if the government makes attending schools mandatory, we would have no choice. But I sincerely hope that we make quick progress on vaccination of adolescents and only after that think of reopening schools.

As Told To Mamta Sharma

‘Covid Fear Made Me See Mall Customers As Live Viruses’

Meera Singh, 36, who worked as a cashier at an upscale shopping mall in Gurgaon, explains why she quit her job in Delhi-NCR and went to her native place in Deoghar

I moved to Delhi-NCR in 2007, and in 2015 I joined Sapphire Mall, Gurugram as a cashier for a boutique with international clientele. Besides managing the clients, I handled their GST and other finance-related bills for the boutique. It was a comfortable job till the pandemic struck in March 2020. In June the same year, I decided to quit, and return to my native place in Deoghar (Jharkhand). In spite of several calls to rejoin work, I have no plans to return to Delhi. Let me explain why.

When the pandemic struck, no one had any idea what was going on or what was the way forward. We wondered what the future held finance-wise or when the lockdown would get over. From March 23 (when the lockdown was announced) until June we were on tenterhooks.

Even when the Unlock began, and I rejoined work, it was stressful. In every shopper who came in I saw a potential virus carrier. And since I was the one at the forefront handling cash (cash would be transferred from one hand to another) I felt I was under a lot of risk. Our international clientele base (mainly NRIs) also left me worried, because it were people who travelled from the West to India were considered the biggest risks.

Even though we followed all Covid protocols to the tee, like regular sanitisation, wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, the virus was making its way into people’s lungs and lives. The media reports of crowded hospitals and overflowing crematoriums made it worse. With the constant pressure of staying safe in a public place, the stress soon began to tell.

Finally when talks of a pay-cut began doing the rounds, my husband and I decided it was not worth the risk. The pandemic had taught us about the fragility of life; I didn’t want to be away from my children, who were with their grandparents, or my ageing parents and in-laws anymore.

ALSO READ: ‘Life Is Tough For Migrant Workers’

First my husband, an engineer, left for our hometown and I followed shortly after on June 21. It required some effort to manage a seat on the flight from Delhi to Patna. A fortnight was spent in quarantine and then I started thinking about the future. With my expertise in handling retail business at a big mall in a big city, I decided to start my own retail business.

In September 2020, I opened up a small unit that sell cosmetics, and other knick-knacks. I feel I am more in control here because unlike in Gurugram, people who come to my shop are part of a tight-knit community and listen to us more readily when we suggest they follow Covid measures. Plus, you feel secure that your family is right there and you don’t need to travel (which is a huge fight in itself in these times) anywhere. And most importantly, I get to be with my children every day. There’s no wealth in the world bigger than the health and happiness of your kids and other family members.

As Told To Yog Maya Singh

Is India Prepared For 3rd Covid Wave?

Indonesia now is in exactly the same terrible and tragic situation as India was during the peak of the second surge. Australia is going for a lockdown, and even New Zealand, hitherto totally safe, is on high alert. With cases rising in thousands every day, Boris Johnson might once again take the UK down the drain if he opens up the lockdown on July 19, even while all is not well in Catalonia/Barcelona in Spain, among other EU nations.

Vice President Kamala Harris led a ‘pride rally’ recently without a mask. Americans in many parts are allowed to come out in the open without masks. However, with 50 per cent fully vaccinated, is the virus really “on the run”, as President Joe Biden so proudly claimed on Independence Day, 4th of July?

There is reportedly a ‘silent surge’ in many parts of America and it is worrisome. It is being largely attributed to clusters of unvaccinated people, including Trump-supporters ‘in denial’. A Georgetown University study reportedly found 30 clusters of counties, of which five are across the Southeast and Midwest, from Georgia to Texas, across Missouri, and parts of Oklahoma, Tennessee, Louisiana, Alabama and Arkansas, where the threat is real and looming large.

So how well is the Indian State with a new health minister at the helm prepared for the ‘third surge’, even as the second wave lingers on, and thousands care a damn in tourist spots, without masks or physical distancing?

Listen to the Covid Task Force head, Dr VK Paul, as reported by the Indian Express: “It is right that the graph (of the decline in the number of cases) has slowed down. It was earlier declining at a faster pace. It only shows that we cannot take the situation for granted. If it is around 35,000-37,000 cases per day, this is almost one-third the number of cases we saw during the first wave peak. The war is not over; the second wave is not over. It is perhaps more visible in some districts and two particular states and the Northeast, but it is still there. As long as this is still rising there, the nation is not safe…With a lot of effort and difficulty, we have reached a situation where cases are on the decline. The situation is bad only in a few districts. But all this can be snatched away from us because we have not contained the virus completely. If we give the virus an opportunity, and chains of transmission are launched…this is something we cannot afford…”

Indians banged thalis, frying pans, pressure cookers at 5 pm on March 22, 2021, following the call of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, even when the virus was just about spreading its wings. Indians followed dutifully with no questions asked, the sudden, draconian and unplanned lockdown last March, which led to the exodus of lakhs of migrant workers. Indians even believed the PM when he said that all will be well in 21 days.

ALSO READ: Virus Is There, Fear Is Gone 

Meanwhile, the states fought their own battles without any tangible help from the Center. Millions were rendered jobless, the poor were left to their helpless fate, the economy tanked and continues to tank, hunger, starvation, anxiety and depression stalked the unhappy landscape, there was ‘no vaccine policy’ worth its name, and people hoped against hope that 2021 will start with a flicker of hope. Remember the PM’s cathartic speech at the World Economic Forum’s Davos Dialogue in January 2021?

“Today, Covid cases are declining rapidly in India… India’s stats cannot be compared with one country as 18 per cent of the world’s population lives here and yet we not only solved our problems but also helped the world fight the pandemic… In these tough times, India has been undertaking its global responsibility from the beginning. When airspace was closed in many countries, India took more than 1 lakh citizens to their countries and delivered essential medicines to more than 150 countries…” 

Significantly, the PM said India’s role will increase with the rollout of more ‘Made in India’ Covid-19 vaccines. Clearly, this was chest-thumping in its most glorious form at the world stage.

Then arrived the deadly second surge, even as the PM and his Union home minster were obsessed with capturing Bengal at any cost, while welcoming millions at the super-spreader Kumbh. The PM was delighted to see huge crowds in one of his last rallies in Bengal. While sections of the stooge media played along, the international media published front page pictures of mass cremations, accompanied with highly critical text putting the entire blame on Modi. And they were on the spot, on the dot. Surely, the mass tragedy was a public spectacle for the world to see!

ALSO READ: Healthcare Cries For An Overhaul

Lest we forget, there were tens of thousands dying due to the acute scarcity of hospital beds, oxygen, life-saving drugs, with cremation and burial grounds unable to find space for the dead bodies, while parking lots, pavements, open spaces and public parks in some places were converted into cremation grounds. Some electric crematoriums refused to work because their ‘internal organs’ had melted due to the relentless heat, huge make-shift walls were created to block journalists to report on the relentless mass cremations (in Lucknow), and the data of deaths were allegedly fudged or censored, even while the obituary pages were full of tributes to the dead (as in Gujarat). 

So, is India prepared for the third wave?

On June 19, said Dr Randeep Guleria, Director, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi:  “We don’t seem to have learnt from what happened between the first and the second wave. Again crowds are building up… people are gathering. It will take some time for the number of cases to start rising at the national level. But it could happen within the next six to eight weeks… maybe a little longer.” He said that unless the population is vaccinated, the country will remain vulnerable in the coming months.

The Hindu reported in early May that that the principal scientific adviser to the government of India has warned that the third wave of Covid-19 is inevitable. “There is, however, no clear time-line on when this third phase will occur. We should be prepared for new waves, and Covid-appropriate behaviour and vaccine upgrades is the way forward,” he said.

Modi has made the promise on live television of total and free vaccination in India after June 21. Hoardings have come up with the PM’s mug shot profusely thanking him for free vaccines. If Rahul Gandhi as much as tweets: ‘July has come. Where are the vaccines?’ some central ministers suddenly emerge from the shadows and Rahul gets a good tongue-lashing.

The situation is as fuzzy as it gets. Noida apparently stopped vaccination from June 30 for a week – reasons not known. Gujarat suspended vaccination recently for unknown reasons – there were no vaccines, according to sources, it was reported. Vaccination was stopped in Mumbai due to lack of vaccines, but restarted again. Almost all the big states reportedly have vaccination shortfalls; Bihar has a shortfall of 71 per cent, while West Bengal, Jharkhand and UP are not far away. Even Kerala and Delhi, who have done the best, will not be able to achieve a 60 per cent target by December.

Is the current scenario optimistic? Not really.

Apparently, about 20 per cent plus have got their first dose, and 5 per cent plus have been fully vaccinated. Surely, at this rate, no one knows when a country of India’s size will ever get ‘fully vaccinated’. And the bitter truth is that less the level of vaccination in the population, the more there are fears of multiple mutations of this killer virus. India, therefore, is as vulnerable as ever.

‘I Won’t Take Any Vaccine, And I Have My Reasons’

Ginni Khurana, 36, a Faridabad-based homemaker explains why she believes that vaccination is not the most effective way to fight a virus, only a nature-based lifestyle is

I lost both my parents to Covid-19. Last year my mom and I contracted the virus at the same time in June. While I survived despite my diabetes, my mother couldn’t make it. This year, I lost my father during the second wave. Despite the heartbreak and the agony I have suffered in a year, I don’t want to take the vaccine. And I have my reasons for it; please bear with me.

I have worked as a Mathematics teacher and I don’t take anything at face value. I believe in something only when I am fully convinced by it. And right now, I believe that taking a vaccine is not in my best interest. I developed Type II diabetes while I was pregnant with my twin boys in 2017. It is then that I chanced upon a YouTube video by Dr Biswaroop Roychowdhury. He is what you would call a naturopath and believes in the efficacy of traditional methods of healing.

When I tested Dr Roychowdhury’s solutions for my health issues, they seemed to work for me. My diabetes got under control without any medicines. I believe one must go for allopathic medicines only under extreme circumstances and should try a more nature-based lifestyle in regular times.

Ginni would not want her twin children (right) to be vaccinated either

When I contracted the virus last year, I followed his coconut water plus citrus juice-based diet and didn’t go for any medicines. When I got myself tested after a fortnight, I tested negative. I have lived to tell the tale, so to speak. Dr Roychowdhury doesn’t recommend vaccines and since I believe so deeply in him and his methods, I don’t want to do anything that he doesn’t suggest. After recovering from Covid, using the diet I mentioned earlier, I recommended the same to others, including my father. However, he refused to take it and had to get hospitalised and finally succumbed there.

I have been hearing that many corporate offices etc are withholding salary if one doesn’t get vaccinated. A vaccination certificate is becoming an important prerequisite for many things, including inter-state travel. So I will fend off taking a jab as long as possible, until I am forced to take it.

ALSO READ: Covid-19 – Nemesis Of Age Of Reason

I’m not the sort of person who imposes my views on anyone. But if anyone sees my opinion, I recommend them not to take the vaccine. Dr Roychowdhury says, one’s immunity gets strengthened if one remains in a happy state of mind or in other words, happiness is the best immunity, laughter the best medicine. I do my regular Buddhist chanting, stay involved with my kids with all my heart and read a lot to keep myself in a happy state of mind. I believe that I do not need a vaccine.

However, that doesn’t mean I am not keeping an eye on the news surrounding the virus or the vaccines. During the second wave it was said that people who had diabetes were more susceptible to black fungus too if they had contracted the virus, but I am doing totally fine. I am now hearing about the Guillain-Barre syndrome that happens to people who have taken the Covishield vaccine. So many people in my extended family have caught the virus even after taking the vaccine. So what’s the point of taking a jab, may I ask?

I care about my husband and kids, but I still wouldn’t like them to take the vaccine (though my kids are too young right now). Many a research say that vaccines can cause more harm than good. For all of us, what we choose to believe in becomes our reality and right now I choose not to believe in the efficacy of vaccines. Or you may say I choose to believe in the efficacy of natural remedies.

Coping With Indian Covid-19 Situation From Abroad

Chahat Awasthi, a journalism trainee at Cardiff University in UK, had many an anxious moment about her mother’s wellbeing as Covid-19 was wreaked havoc in India

“I’ll die if you fall sick,” said my mother two months back. I wanted to tell her the feeling is mutual. Instead, I said that I am fine and well-protected as some of my flatmates’ friends from college entered the common kitchen for a study session. In my defence, the UK has had zero Covid cases and the economy has been opening-up slowly. People are meeting each other with much abandon. I have no control over the government’s decisions.

That night the thought of losing my mother while I perish within the four walls of my student accommodation in a country that I have barely adjusted to gripped me.

It was a sleepless night but then it has been months worrying about India. My mum is a single parent and is currently living with my sister. I have been waiting for weeks to hear good news from the homeland. It did come, only later than most of us expected and later than can be forgiven or forgotten.

The country has lost too many loved ones. There looked what seemed like a lack of preparation for a situation like that. There was dearth of medical equipment. Rallies went on. Religious celebrations went on. But, sometimes life does not.

But at one point bodies were being found in Ganga, and there were lessons on positivity handed to people who blamed the government. A friend spoke of a hospital bill that was higher than it should be considering the death certificate showed time of death a day earlier. Bill included services and support not provided. I wondered if there is an end to grief and greed. Finding opportunity in adversity?

A file photo of senior Awasthi with her daughter Chahat

Mother is now in her 50s, a heart patient but fully vaccinated now. It happened before we entered the shortage phase. There is gratefulness but not with certain qualifications. The ‘what ifs continue.’ No one is invincible.

Meanwhile, here, I got my first shot. Mother-daughter sighed together on call that day.

But, from March to May, I have constantly stressed about the virus. There was begging involved, have asked friends to ensure she is ok, have asked them to ensure other friends are ok, have seen some lose their parents, some siblings, etc. Others battled mental health issues. I have been trenched in mine. So much guilt to wade through these as questions where does stress stand in the hierarchy of loss.

It comes as no surprise thus that the humiliation is not singular in its impact. There is the shame of not having had a loss, fear it might strike any day, and helplessness. What can I do to help? How can I make a contribution that counts? So, I made a video on how to spot fake news. I got 58 likes and 554 views. The problem persists.

Be positive, I have been told time and again, while my family back home spoke of who lost whom and I sat in my room with deadlines, thinking of unignorable inefficiency in the politics of hate and self-interest over that of the collective’s.

At least there is technology. A WhatsApp call once in the morning and once in the evening has been the order of the day. It helps my mother go by. She is counting the days for my return. I get it. Today, 23rd June is crossed in my calendar too.

‘India Must Vaccinate Vulnerable Sections On Priority’

Prof Jimmy Whitworth, a  member of the Scientific Advisory Committee for WHO’s R&D Blueprint for Action to Prevent Epidemics, has been at the helm of several global initiatives on public health research in low- and middle-income countries. An academic staff member at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, he has rich experience in devising strategy and policy on population health. In an emailed interview, Prof Whitworth spoke with LokMarg about the pandemic situation in India, what to expect in the foreseeable future and how India can tackle the situation.

India has witnessed a deadly second wave of the COVID pandemic that has left in its wake millions of people dying and many more battling with the infection. Although there has been a decline in cases, are there still risks of another wave?

The deadly second wave of COVID-19 in India is now thankfully receding. From a peak of 400,000 new cases a day in early May, there are now around 100,000 new cases per day. However, unless there are concerted efforts to control the epidemic, there are likely to be large waves in the future. These reported numbers of cases are likely to be severe underestimates of the true burden due to a backlog in reporting test results, poor access to testing and many people not being tested because of fear or stigma.

Do you think the Indian government’s decision or recommendation to increase the interval between the first and second doses will have an impact on its efficacy? Or is it, as many believe, an attempt to solve the demand and supply gap for vaccines?

The gap between first and second doses is of minor importance right now, getting vaccines in Indian arms as quickly as possible is the priority. Early on in the pandemic India provided vaccines and medicines for other countries. But now there is a shortage of vaccine supplies in India that is expected to last until July 2021.

The important actions now are to give priority to vaccinations for vulnerable populations, support state level estimates of demand, ensure a coordinated strategy between states and make sure there is an effective supply chain. This means national and state level negotiations are needed to procure vaccines urgently.  There also needs to be a negotiation of patent waivers and clearances for production of a broad set of vaccines with incentives and support for local manufacturers.

One of the variants of the virus in India is believed to be a mutation that is resistant to antidotes. How effective are the vaccines available now? Is there reason to believe that they are not effective against new variants of the COVID virus?

The current vaccines appear to be effective at preventing infection and disease of all of the new variants described so far, although there is some drop-off in effectiveness in protection against some of the strains. The vaccines are still valuable and one of the most important tools that we have to combat this terrible epidemic. Everyone should be encouraged to come forward for vaccination.

How do you think India can best handle the situation there in the context of lack of healthcare infrastructure and the sheer size of the population?

Despite the vast population and fragmented health system, India can control this epidemic. This needs political leadership, with good quality data for decision making. Transparency, public communication and engagement to ensure collective responsibility and action will be important. We need to enhance the ability of health services to respond by expanding the pool of trained, well-protected staff, establish dedicated well-equipped and safe COVID-19 facilities, use primary care for home care, and ensure sufficient medical supplies and oxygen. As well as the need for mass vaccination mentioned above, we need to scale up SARS-CoV-2 testing and expand decentralised contact tracing and isolation. International and domestic travel need to be reduced and made safe through testing and quarantine. Effective bans of gatherings of more than 12 people, closing venues and indoor public spaces and ensuring physical distancing, hand hygiene and mask-wearing will be important to prevent transmission of infection.

What does the future scenario look like? Would most of the world’s population have to live with the reality that the virus and its mutants will continue to be a threat in varying degrees for the foreseeable future?

The measures mentioned above will be sufficient to bring the epidemic under control, however it is likely that this virus will remain in the human population and cause outbreaks for years to come. We will need to adapt to become faster and more effective at controlling these waves of infection. This may need the development of new vaccines to combat variants that occur in the future.

Watch – ‘Vaccination Was Smooth, Very Well Managed’

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.

Watch full video here

‘I Had Zero Side-Effect After Second Covid Vaccine Shot’

Dr Amiya Kumar Verma, deputy medical superintendent at Max Hospital Patparganj, Delhi, got his 2nd shot of vaccine on Feb 13.  Having seen the battle against Covid from the frontline, he is relieved to see the vaccination moving in right direction

I got my first dose of Covishield vaccine on January 16, 2021, the day when the nationwide Covid-19 vaccine drive was started. I had volunteered to take the shot on the very first day itself as I wanted to remove the fears of some of the doubting Thomases in my team.

And it worked. Of the 100 health-workers slotted to be vaccinated on day one, 70 came forward; this was the best percentage score from Delhi centres. It was natural for them to have anxiety about the vaccine, but when they saw the seniors taking the jab, they felt encouraged.

I must also appreciate the government’s efforts and planning for the vaccination at the designated unit in our hospital (Max Patparganj). The drive was monitored by health officials who informed the beneficiaries of possible side-effects and managed it smoothly.

Of the 70 who were vaccinated that day, almost everyone experienced a mild fever and weakness for a few days. I too had similar experience but the effects tapered off in three to four days.

ALSO READ: ‘Mild Fever Overnight Was The Only Side-Effect’

After the first vaccination shot, there was a survey carried by the government through a toll-free number for feedback about the procedure followed, hygiene maintained at the centre, and if the beneficiaries were attended to for the designated period post-vaccination.

The second shot after 28 days, that is on Feb 13. This time, there were no side-effects. Not even mild fever; I even went for my routine evening walk. As the experience was shared, it has raised hope and confidence among others about the vaccination programme.

I have been telling the heads of each department in our hospital to lead from the front so that the rest of the staff gains confidence. Of the 2,200 to be vaccinated, about 1,600 have got the jab. The ones left include those who adopt a wait and watch policy. They want the others to take the second dose and wait for their side effects.

In our battle against the pandemic, other than basic precautions, we simply do not have any other alternative except the two vaccines available. So why should I not take it!

Dr Verma considers vaccine a blessing amid pandemic

It is a blessing for the healthcare workers and their families as well as for those who have lost their loved ones during this pandemic. This pandemic made people so helpless that they couldn’t be at the side of their loved ones in the hospital or bid them a final goodbye. I have seen deaths where relatives prayed us to let them visit their patients one last time. And then, there were some people who did not come to see their family members for the fear of contagion. Such has been the stigma and the hopelessness that the pandemic caused.

ALSO READ: A Vaccine Of Hope

It is disappointing to hear some people say, that if others have taken the vaccine, we don’t need it. The idea for taking the vaccine is that the antibodies are developed in our body; it doesn’t mean that we won’t get the infection. What it means is by chance even if we get it, we will not have a serious effect like it did in the past after having taken the shot.

I want to tell people that if I have taken the vaccine then I can face and fight coronavirus while the one who is not vaccinated is neither safe from contraction nor capable of battling the virus. So this mentality that let others take it and we will be safe is not the right one.

If the government puts a price on the vaccination, I am sure people will stand in queue to get it but because the government is doing it free of cost, people are taking it for granted. Also the social media spreads a lot of misinformation. People keep forwarding a message that can do more harm than good without reading or understanding it.

As told to Mamta Sharma

‘Vaccine’s Only Side-Effect Was Mild Fever Overnight’

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.

ALSO READ: ‘We Gave Guard Of Honour To 1st Vaccinated Lot’

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.

Saroj Kumar (wearing a facemask and inset) took a selfie while waiting for the vaccine

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.

ALSO READ: A Vaccine Of Hope

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.

As Told To Yogmaya Singh

‘Police Band Gave A Guard Of Honour To 1st Vaccinated Lot’

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.

ALSO READ: ‘Proud To Be A Part Of Vaccination’

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.

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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.

As Told To Mamta Sharma