Meet India's frontline workers who received first COVID-19 vaccine shots
On Saturday, India launched its COVID-19 vaccination drive, inoculating 1.91 lakh people on the first day alone. In the first phase, India is aiming to vaccinate three lakh healthcare and frontline workers. India has granted emergency approval for restricted use to two vaccines: Covishield (developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, and manufactured by Pune-based Serum Institute of India) and Bharat Biotech's COVAXIN.
According to the Union Home Ministry, a total of 16,755 personnel were involved in organizing 3,351 vaccination sessions across the country. As of Sunday, India has reported 1,05,57,985 COVID-19 cases, including 2,08,826 active cases, 1,01,96,885 recoveries, and 1,52,274 deaths.
The first person to be vaccinated in India was Manish Kumar, a 34-year-old sanitation worker at Delhi's All India Institute of Medical Sciences. Kumar told PTI that he decided to go first to receive the vaccine as his colleagues were scared. Speaking to ANI, he said his wife was also worried. However, he said he can now continue his job without any hesitation.
Indore Chief Medical and Health Officer Purnima Gadariya also decided to get the vaccine to allay fears about safety. Gadariya—who had tested positive for COVID-19 in October—told The Indian Express, "During our video conferences with the senior officials of state officials, we realized there's a certain sense of fear amongst people. I decided to vaccinate myself first to built trust by setting an example."
After receiving the vaccine, Dr. Vijay Mishra of Ranchi, Jharkhand, told TIE, "The vaccine is safe. We all should take it." Dr. Mishra has reportedly treated around 3,000 COVID-19 patients and had himself been infected with the virus. "It is a bit early to gauge the (vaccine's) efficacy, but as a doctor, I decided to be an example for others," he said.
At Mumbai's JJ Hospital, Sanjay Deshmukh was among the staffers to receive COVAXIN. "After suffering from fever for four days, I suddenly collapsed and was rushed to a hospital, where my swab test showed that I was COVID-19 positive. For almost a month, I was on oxygen support," Deshmukh told TIE, "Getting COVAXIN today was the least scary thing of my life."
In Chhattisgarh's Jawanga village, Churri, a 50-year-old community health volunteer, received a Covishield shot. Churri told TIE, "I am fed up of wearing a mask. I trust the vaccine." She said her son was scared of her getting the vaccine. However, Churri, who has three children and five grandchildren, said she does not think there would be any severe side-effects to the vaccine.
Nisha Hameed—a 41-year-old nurse at the Government Women and Children's Hospital in Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram—told TIE, "Now, I feel like a soldier who has worn an armor." Hameed said some family members had tried to dissuade her from getting vaccinated, however, she felt health workers should lead the way. A mother of two teenagers, Hameed said now all her fears have been put to rest.
In Arunachal Pradesh's Namsai, Dr. Tope Yomcha (53) received a jab of Covishield. He has had to quarantine himself twice, once in August and again in September, after coming in contact with COVID-19 patients, including his own 19-year-old son and two nephews. He told TIE, "This vaccine signifies that an alternative way to protect ourselves and our loved ones from COVID-19 is beginning."