New Delhi: AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria, NITI Aayog member (health) Dr V.K. Paul and liver transplant surgeon Dr A.S. Soin were among the recipients of the Covid-19 vaccine on the first day of launch, minutes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the programme across the country Saturday.
There was nervousness, first day jitters and also some refusals, even as concerns about Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin lingered.
Top authorities, hospital directors take lead
In the national capital, top health authorities and directors of hospitals took the lead in taking the vaccine shot “to set an example” among others.
AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria and NITI Aayog (health) member V.K. Paul were administered vaccine at India’s premier health institute.
Speaking to reporters afterwards, Paul said, “I have taken the shot, it was Covaxin. I feel great, superb. I am relieved. India has reached a point where the final battle against Covid-19 can be fought with an additional and game-changing tool, namely the vaccine.” He insisted that the vaccine is a great tool to ensure that the Covid-19 pandemic is extinguished.
On safety concerns, he stressed, “Safety proven without doubt on thousands and thousands of individuals… We should respect the scientific processes that unfolded in extremely different, difficult and unusual circumstances. Today, two great vaccines are available. Whatever vaccine you’re allotted, please take.”
Guleria called the drive just a “beginning”, adding that the real challenge would be to vaccinate people over 50 years of age, numbering over 26 crore within the next five-six months. To this, Paul added, “That will be the real test of our resilience, capacity and capability. India will be able to do it smoothly using Indian products.”
Dr A.K. Rana, medical superintendent of Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, also decided to take the Covaxin shot after there was some uproar by the doctors refusing to take the Bharat Biotech vaccine. “I feel absolutely fine and it has been over two hours since I took the shot. Hopefully the number of people who turn up over the coming few days will increase,” he said.
Also among those vaccinated on the first day, Dr Arvinder Singh Soin, surgeon and chairman of liver transplant and regenerative medicine at Medanta, called the procedure “smooth and painless”.
Smooth & Painless!
Honoured to be vaccinated against COVID-19. pic.twitter.com/zHfUDijOzQ
— Dr. Arvinder Singh Soin (@ArvinderSoin) January 16, 2021
Dr Sandeep Nayar, director and head of department, chest and respiratory diseases, BLK Superspeciality Hospital, also took the lead to get a Covishield jab.
“I have been working at Covid-19 ward since the last 10 months and have been working continuously, without a single off. Fortunately, I haven’t caught the infection yet but I was waiting eagerly for the vaccination drive to kick start. While there are some people around me who are apprehensive about getting the shots, I am trying my best to infuse confidence in them,” he said.
Lok Sabha MP and former Union minister Mahesh Sharma got vaccinated at Kailash Hospital in Uttar Pradesh’s Noida, becoming one of the first parliamentarians to get the shot.
Beneficiaries express relief, no major complaints
In LNJP Hospital, where the state-level vaccine drive was launched in the national capital, a nurse from the oncology department, Biji John, was the first one to be administered the Covishield vaccine in the hospital. Those who received the shot at the hospital were given red roses as a mark of respect and courage.
“I have waited for this day as I was on duty in the Covid ward so many months together,” the 48-year-old said, adding that her husband and two children encouraged her to do this. “I volunteered but little did I know I would be the first one. When I realised I was, I became very nervous suddenly, but all is well and I feel it’s all in the mind.
Dr Vikas Dogra, the head of Pulmonology department at Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital, said, “The last ten months were the most difficult time of our lives. We have seen so many people take their last breath because of Covid-19. I don’t want any more people to die, which is why I want the vaccination drive to be successful.”
Ashutosh Chaturvedi, the emergency nursing head at Max Hospital, Saket, was the first recipient of the vaccine in his hospital. The 31-year-old said, “I haven’t seen my wife and 9 month old daughter for the last few months. With this vaccine I feel joy in my heart that I will be reunited with my family.”
Similar response in other parts of the country
In Karnataka, Thiagaraj B., a cook at Bengaluru’s Sir CV Ramanagar General Hospital, who made meals for all the Covid patients for months, received the first shot in the hospital.
“I was very scared all these months. Even this morning I was apprehensive. Then when I went up and registered, I felt more confident after seeing my other colleagues who were so enthusiastic. They gave me strength,” he told ThePrint.
Amar Bahadur, a junior assistant at King George’s Medical University in Lucknow, got the hospital’s first shot. Speaking to reporters, he said, “There was absolutely no problem after receiving the vaccine shot. I am still feeling enthusiastic. I want to appeal to my countrymen to participate actively in this vaccination campaign and drive the coronavirus out of my country.”
In Raipur, Tulsa Tandi, a 55-year-old sanitation worker at the Ambedkar Hospital, was the first to take a shot at Chhattisgarh’s largest vaccination centre, Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College.
Tandi said she was elated to receive the first dose of the Covishield vaccine and was feeling fine. “So far, there has been no nausea, dizziness or any other complication. I’m preparing to go to work after this. There is nothing to be worried about this vaccine. We all must come forward for vaccination,” she said.
With inputs from Rohini Swamy, Prithviraj Singh, Rishika Sadam, Himani Chandna and Prashant Srivastava.