‘We Haven’t Learnt Our Lessons From Covid Waves’

Yogendra Chaudhary, 30, a chemist shop owner in Moradabad (Uttar Pradesh), is scared of the looming third wave and urges people for Covid-appropriate behaviour in public places

I am a pharmacist and opened a medicine shop about the same time when the dread of Covid-19 was setting in. In a matter of a few months, the number of people visiting our pharmacy increased by nearly 50% which meant coming in contact with more and more strangers with every passing hour and day. Moreover, we had no idea about the immunity levels of these individuals that we were coming in contact with.

Needless to say, I caught the dreaded virus around April 2020, when everyone was just flailing around for solutions. Even though mine was a mild case and I escaped with only a mild fever, the uncertainty about when the infection might flare up, can leave people agonised. I resumed work after the required quarantine period and only after I ensured I had tested negative. One may recover from Covid, but the immunity isn’t as robust as before.

Back then, there was not even a murmur of vaccines being developed. Apart from the usual masks, gloves and sanitizers we had no protection at all. Even when all other services were halted amid strict lockdown, ours was the most essential service of it all, which meant we have been open throughout the pandemic. Day in and day out. There might have been days where hospitals and chemists must have been the only ones functioning. It’s an eerie feeling to be the only businesses open when everything else is shut down.

While people were scared when the first wave struck, the fear vanished as the cases began to subside. The Covid-appropriate behaviour went for a toss and quite a few of them would come to our pharmacy without masks. Then there were people who were following the protocols for the sake of it. If you ask me, what I feared the most was every time people would take out their phones (to make or receive calls) in between the purchases and after that directly take out cash to pay us. Phones are anyway considered dirty as few take the time to clean them properly.

Online transactions were cool though, but in small towns not everyone does online transactions. If you remember, Moradabad was declared a hotspot during the first wave, with so many people even refusing to get tested.

ALSO READ: ‘People Have Thrown Caution Out Of The Window’

Indeed, it did not take long for the second wave to knock in. And what a wave it turned out to be. No hospital beds, no oxygen, dead bodies flowing in the Ganga. But yet, we haven’t learnt our lessons. The tragedies are all but forgotten, and we are back to our Covid-inappropriate selves. Experts say the third wave is upon us, sooner or later. And being in the middle of it all being a chemist, I am scared. But if you look around, the public behaviour seems as if we care a hoot.

Prevention is definitely better than cure when it comes to the coronavirus. When people don’t take precautions, it is frontline workers like us chemists and our families who are at a major risk of infection and reinfection. I had never expected the pandemic to go on for so long and I wish I seen the end of it for good. The spectre of ill-health looming over people day in and day out is too much. The second wave was so heart-breaking as well as scary. The mutated virus was even more deadly, and to think it can be kept at bay (mostly) using the simple measures of masks, sanitisers and social distancing.

Vaccines have come as a much-needed relief but people still need to be careful. We should do everything in our might to keep the third wave at bay and we can’t fully be at rest until the virus is defeated altogether. After all our own lives and that of our loved ones are at stake.

As Told To Yog Maya Singh

‘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.

‘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.

‘Eager To Get The Vaccine & Reboot My Roster’

Nita Balmohan Rajesh (37), a Bengaluru-based HR professional, is hoping the age-bar for getting Covid vaccine to be lowered so she could safely step out of the virtual, closed-door world

My eight year old has a complaint: “It’s been 13 months sitting at home, Amma.”

My ten year old daughter chimes in: “It’s been the worst year ever, would you agree Amma?”

“Are you saying we can’t visit our cousins even this summer?” they both ask grumpily.

This is the new-found 2020 mode for my children: Sulk, even cry over the smallest of issues, yell at the sibling, take 45-50 minutes to finish a meal, and the worst, sneak more time on their personal laptops. Gone are the care-free days of playing in the park undeterred, getting a time-out for “pushing” a friend. “There are no friends in the park; who should we play with?” they complain and grudge about restricted hours for using iPads.

My husband, Rajesh, and I do feel guilty of this at times. Indeed, that one hour of screen time that we allow our children due to office engagements never ends as scheduled. “Another five mins please…”

Nita’s misses outings with family

How you wish to travel back in time to pre-March 2020! You woke up, readied the household for school and work, and went to office in person. What a feeling it now seems! Eight hours in a world away from the home. You actually MET people! You hugged some of them and shook hands with many of them. You solved business issues face-to-face and you could understand their speech coherently without the masks getting in the way.

You could see the entire human expression, the twitch in their lips when they disagreed; the eye roll when someone said something disagreeable; the nose turning slightly red when upset or angry. You didn’t have to plead them to turn on the video, or increase the volume. “Hello, can you hear me?” You were certain they heard you clear. You looked forward when the clock struck the hour to be back home. You enjoyed your favorite songs on the radio while cursing the reckless drivers on the road.

ALSO READ: ‘A Year Of Pandemic: Setback & Fightback’

You then came home looking forward to solve world peace-level problems. “Amma, Lalith wouldn’t speak to me today. He’s being best friends with Aditya. What do you think I should do?” Or “Amma, my skates don’t fit me anymore. How will I attend my skating classes tomorrow?” Just reminiscing those episodes brings a huge smile. No wonder we were physically healthier and mentally ‘less depressed’.

You didn’t have the luxury of snoozing your alarms, getting into conference calls un-showered or moving the breakfast hour. There was a purpose you woke up with to complete the 101 to-dos! You looked forward to your work-travel and then the vacation you did take.

Nita with her colleagues

The three things I miss a lot is the feeling of being in an aircraft, in a real office and dropping the kids in their school bus. Is there something wrong with me, I confessed to a friend, and we both laughed.

And the age-limit on being eligible for a vaccine certainly doesn’t make any of this remotely happen anytime soon. I do understand the demand-supply situation and completely support the fact that the older folks are at increased risk and should be prioritized. I am certain millions of us will be willing to pay a retail price to procure these vaccines and move on to our “normal” lives. Hope the 30-something aren’t asking for too much! Are we?

As Told To Mamta Sharma

‘In Initial Days Of Covid-19, Doctors Lost Sense Of Time’

Dr Arista Lahiri, 31, Sr Resident (Epidemiology) at College Of Medicine & Sagor Dutta Hospital in Kolkata, recounts how healthcare professionals battled the unknown virus and why we can’t let the guard down even now

I was fresh out of medical school when the pandemic struck. Even though my field of study was community medicine and thus I was well-versed with the incidence, spread and possible control of diseases during an epidemic/pandemic, yet nothing had prepared us for a crisis of such epic proportions that affected the whole world.

I was posted at the District Hospital in 24 Parganas (North) and had gone to another city to attend a medical conference in January 2020 when coronavirus began to be discussed seriously. Wuhan was already reeling under its impact and slowly the medical fraternity across the world had begun to realise that the virus was soon going to spread much, much farther than China.

In March-end, when the pandemic was officially declared in India, I dedicated myself completely to fighting the unknown virus. We were a four-member team doing 24×7 surveillance of both active as well as potential cases to target and isolate. We were doing everything from data entry to helping Covid patients get admission in hospitals to occasionally going out in the fields to see how the situation was panning out.

ALSO READ: ‘I Delivered My Child Amid Pandemic’

For two-three months we had no sense of time, putting in every hour of work that we could and going home only to sleep. We had no life outside work for those several months and no outlet to unwind. We just kept each other motivated and in good spirits.

Dr Lahiri says battling the virus is not the job of healthcare professionals alone

I was myself scared of the contagion; there were so many people suffering around us. Each day, I pulled myself up and marched on stronger. My parents were extremely supportive and understood my duty as a medical professional.

While the rest of the country was facing only Covid, nature dealt a double blow to West Bengal: cyclone Amphan. I am quite happy with the way our state government handled the crisis. The entire state machinery from the primary to district to state-level worked in tandem. Post-Amphan, there was a shifting of roles and responsibilities and I was asked to be a member of the Covid State Cell in Kolkata in June end.

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

We had all learnt better by then and were able to streamline our work better. The workload eased off just a tiny bit, though we were still checking in hundreds and hundreds of patients each day. One thing I was happy about was that I was now living with my parents in Kolkata.

Since then I have been working in Kolkata itself doing 12 hour shifts every day. Between my work as faculty at the College of Medicine and my work at the Sagordutta Hospital, I have to travel nearly 40 kms each day. We cannot afford to slack off even now, though we can relax a bit.

Battling the pandemic isn’t the job of frontline healthcare workers alone. Community medicine is all about a community’s adherence to rules. Even though vaccines have been developed, we need to understand that new strains of the virus might still take over. So masks, sanitizing and social distancing are still our best bets against the virus! I got both my vaccine shots, but I still take all the precautions.

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

Watch – ‘Govt Must Keep Vaccine Prices Affordable’

As vaccination drive against Covid-19 steps into the second-shot stage, LokMarg tries to find out people’s expectations and anxieties about the jab. The respondents looked aware of the vaccination and there was little fear in their mind with regards to its efficacy or side-effects

However, they feel that when the times comes for buying the vaccines from the market, the health regulators must ensure that their prices are affordable for common people. This would also ensure success of mass vaccination programme in the country.

Watch the full video here

India’s Vaccine Victory Carries A Parsi Punch

Smarting at China for long over several issues – border tensions that have compelled, among other things, minimizing of economic ties, boosting of “all-weather friend” Pakistan, being opposed at diplomatic forums and being surrounded in the region south of the Himalayas – India has found a sure and significant counter in the shape of vaccine against Coronavirus.

Even if small and short-term, it is smart, and has the world taking note – a world that is suffering from the pandemic. The Narendra Modi Government deserves full marks for launching “vaccine diplomacy” when confronted by a myriad issues. That includes being among the top five nations among the Corona-hit.

Its aspirations to become vishwa guru – teacher to the world – may seem tall and are contentious, even at home. But this one, emerging as vishwa chikitsak – doctor to the world, at least a good part of it, and partly, is eminently achievable and is already underway.

Beginning January 16, countries far and near are benefitting on something they direly need. That brings goodwill – hopefully, also blessings from individuals and families those who get cured. A vaccine is tika or teeka. It also carries several other connotations. The one that fits in here is tilak, the mark on Indian forehead to depict success, with humility. And why not, when India has already been the wold’s largest vaccine-maker?

Five million doses of Oxford University-invented Astra Zeneca vaccine, produced by Serum Institute of India (SII) are being gifted to Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Cambodia and Seychelles. Each of them is in dire need of the vaccine due to high incidence, and each one is hit economically by the pandemic. Inoculation began within three days of the vaccine being flown by special flights.

This has been India’s traditional area of regional influence where China, with its deep pockets and offers of huge projects has grabbed in the recent years.

Predictably, given perennially adversarial relations, India has ignored Pakistan that has yet to get a firm Chinese commitment of Sinovac. It is in queue for free doses while awaiting Astra Zeneca and Russia’s Sputnik for “emergency use.”

ALSO READ: A Vaccine Of Hope

India has raced ahead when China has yet to begin because of the uncertainties attached to its vaccine trials. Indeed, there is also the psychological factor about China being accused – real or propaganda – of causing Covid-19 at Wuhan and as it spread, not informing the world.

This is India’s defining moment. Besides goodwill and prestige, it is good business also, coming when its economy is struggling to recover from the lows experienced long before Covid-19 struck last year. Seven Indian companies are racing to produce vaccines and Covaxin of the state sector Bharat Biotech is already being administered.

Thanks to the virus, the Indian pharmaceutical sector, slated to export worth USD 25 billion by end-March, can expect to export much more.

To some of the neighbours, including Bangladesh that is to get three million doses for free as a goodwill gesture, commercial exports are scheduled to let the SII recover its investment and effort.  

India has contracted to sell SII-made Covishield to Brazil, Morocco, South Africa, and Saudi Arabia. Flights carrying the precious cargo took off to these countries on January 22. Order books are full to conduct exports to more nations.

India plans to export vaccines to the other poor and middle-income countries of Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia as part of an arrangement with GAVI, the vaccine alliance. This should boost its and soft-power on even a larger scale than yoga.

It has not been easy, however. A major pharma producer, despite its growing strength, India has faced an undercurrent of propaganda in the global market about the reliability of its medicines after the US Food and Drugs regulator sent out adverse notices.

Emerging as the pharmaceutical powerhouse of the region has increased the reliability of India’s healthcare sector on which its neighbours are heavily dependent. This could further bolster medical tourism.

ALSO READ: ‘We Moved 1.1cr Vaccines In 24 Hours’

The least-talked part of this vaccine story is the role of the tiny Parsi community of fire-worshipping Zoroastrians, to which SII’s owner, Cyrus Poonawala and his CEO son Adar belong.

A story on social media that remains unconfirmed is that of Cyrus offering the Bombay Parsi Panchayat to reserve over 60,000 doses of Covishield for the community. Ratan Tata, head of the house of Tata, politely declined: “we are Indian first, then Parsis. We will wait our turn in line.”

This is the modesty for which the Parsis are well-known. But there is no escaping some details, even allowing for an element of exaggeration.

+ SII’s Covishield is stored in glass vials produced by a Parsi firm Schott Kaisha, owned by Rishad Dadachanji.

+ They are transported with dry ice manufactured by another Parsi, Farokh Dadabhoy.

+ They are delivered by Tata Motors Trucks.

+ Vaccine batches transported by GoAir of Jeh Wadia and stored in refrigerators made by Godrej, both renowned Parsi family enterprises.

Despite being a miniscule fraction of the 1.3 billion Indian population, the Parsis have never asked for Minority benefits. They have always punched above their class and the numbers.

Literate, industrious and not averse to leaving shores unlike the traditional Hindus, they became indispensable to Britain’s global reach. One of their tasks was carrying opium to China. But they also fought the British: Dadabhai Naoroji, Dinshaw Mehta, Bhicaiji Cama were among them.

They responded to overtures from the Mughal kings and later to the early British settlers, taking up shipping, banking, construction and brokerage. They were the pioneers who built a half of Mumbai.

It would take several pages to list only the names of Parsis who have made an outstanding contribution to independent India’s economy, defence, atomic energy, music, literature, science, sports and cinema. Their reach is now global.

Way back in 2012, a top community official told the Mumbai High Court that its definition of a poor Parsi was one who earned less than Rs 90,000 per month. This is many times more than India’s per capita annual income of $1,876.53 or Rupees 136,794.

Is the community India’s richest? It does have poor members. But then think of India’s Tata, Godrej, Pallonji, Wadia, Avari and Bhandara of Pakistan, Lord Karan Bilimoria of Britain – to name only the industrialists and businessmen.

Almost all of them have institutionalised philanthropy giving billions away. Although all faiths preach piety and charity, the Parsis (“thy name is charity”) lead. It is riches well earned, well spent. It will be tragic if their population dwindles to almost zero by the end of this century.

The writer can be reached at mahendraved07@gmail.com

‘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.

ALSO READ: ‘Ignore Fake New, Vaccines Are A Must’

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