Even as concerns remain, it’s the same people who have been at the frontlines of the COVID-19 battle who are now in the vaccine vanguard – ready to tell the world about how the vaccine works.

Telangana Health Minister Eatala Rajender overseeing the vaccination drive in HyderabadImage: PTI
Coronavirus Coronavirus Saturday, January 16, 2021 - 15:47

Healthcare workers at the frontline of India's COVID-19 battle got their first jabs on Saturday with Prime Minister Narendra Modi launching the world's largest vaccination drive against the pandemic. More than one crore cases and 1.5 lakh fatalities later, India took its first steps out of the pandemic with shots of Covishield and Covaxin vaccines being administered at medical centres across the country.

Addressing the nation ahead of the launch, the Prime Minister reminded people that two doses of the vaccine are very important and asked them to continue with masks and physical distancing even after receiving the vaccines. Reassuring people that emergency use authorisation was given to the two 'made in India' vaccines only after scientists were convinced of their safety and effectiveness, he said the vaccines will ensure a decisive victory for the country over the coronavirus pandemic.

TNM's reporters on the ground spoke to some of the first people to get the vaccination in the cities of Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Thiruvananthapuram, and Vijayawada. We bring you, south India’s vaccine vanguard:

RL Saritha
Director
Kerala Health Services   

To be frank, I am very relieved and happy. Vaccination is the most effective tool against any pandemic. I am as happy as someone who got a weapon (to fight something). We know the strength of the weapon. It has been 12 months since our state, our country and the world as a whole started fighting against this. We eradicated smallpox and polio with vaccination. Kerala hasn't had a polio case after 2000. I am happy to be part of such a great effort.

As of now, no side-effects have been reported. It’s unlikely to have a major side effect. We have given training and have made all arrangements to take care of people if they develop any uneasiness.

The vaccinating team had observed us well for 30 minutes after the vaccination. Also the government has assured us that it is flawless. It’s my beloved colleagues who administered the vaccine to me. I am thanking them.

K Jeyamma
ANM worker
Narsingi, Hyderabad

I am not all worried about taking the vaccine. I have been told that the vaccine is completely safe. I am happy to be receiving the vaccine. It was a hard time without a vaccine. These last 10 months were a testing time. While I was following all the precautions and protocols, we still had to interact with COVID-19 patients. At that point, people had given up on the patients, but we took care of them and were like friends to them. It was our duty. During this period, I was never worried that I would contract the virus if I speak with them. Even if I did get it, I was okay with it. We are health workers and this is our job.

B Pushpa Kumari (45)
Sanitation worker
Andhra Pradesh Health Department

I was one of the first people in the state to receive the vaccine. I've been working as a sweeper at Vijayawada Government General Hospital (GGH) for three years. I was a little scared at first, but I was the first person at the centre, and the Chief Minister was next to me. He comforted me and said it's safe, so I felt reassured. It's been about an hour and I feel alright.

Umesh YP (32)
Cleaning staff member
CV Raman General Hospital, Bengaluru

I work as a cleaner in this hospital and during the COVID-19 lockdown, I used to wear a PPE kit and sanitise the hospital building. I was one of the first persons to be vaccinated. I arrived at the hospital before 10 am. After the speech by the Prime Minister, I was taken to a verification room and my temperature was checked. I was asked to give basic details and a valid identification card. I went to the next room where a doctor told me about the vaccine, possible side effects like fever in a few days. After this, the injection was given to me and it felt like an ant bite. I did not feel it was painful. I was then taken to an observation room where I was told to stay for 30 minutes. After this, I will continue with my duty.

Himaja (29)
General Duty Medical Officer
Vijayawada GGH

I can't put in words how the COVID-19 experience has been. It's been different for everyone. I've been on COVID duty for five months. There's collective effort from everyone who has been available at all hours to help each other and clarify doubts, in spite of whatever is going on in their personal lives.

My mother-in-law was infected. I was one of the people who treated her. When you treat a patient and they actually get better, I can't explain how it feels, to see their happiness. It has been terrible for some, and people have lost lives, but we also saw a lot of optimism and solidarity among our patients.

B Priyanka
PG student
Madras Medical College

It feels great. Of course, the toll the disease took on us over the past few months is huge. But I am grateful that at least now we have something hopeful in sight. Getting the vaccine doesn't mean we can let go of all precautions. It is an add-on to whatever we have been doing so far like wearing masks, washing hands as often as possible etc.

My family was affected by COVID-19 and it was a very stressful time for me till they recovered. With the vaccine now, I feel better. Several of my friends also were infected. If the vaccine works well for me, I would be definitely telling people to register and get it.

U Aruna (42)
ASHA worker
Hyderabad

We suffered a lot because of the pandemic. We had to regularly visit houses to check for patients with symptoms. Our jobs were not easy. There was a mental stress, too, considering the paranoia around the virus. Because of coronavirus, I had a personal loss. My brother-in-law died just two days after contracting the virus. It was a hard phase. I am glad that there's a vaccine for it now. My family members are curious about the vaccine. I am not at all in doubt. I will take both the doses without any fear.

Gerald Raj (52)
Radiographer
CV Raman General Hospital, Bengaluru

I work as a radiographer here taking CT scans, ultrasounds, MRIs. I volunteered for the vaccination process. We had to wait till the Prime Minister launched the vaccination drive and then we had to go into the verification room.I was asked to give my PAN card or Aadhaar card details and I had carried my Aadhaar card with me. Then I was given the vaccine shot and it did not cause any pain. I feel that this vaccine will protect us from COVID-19.

Nisha Hameed (41)
Nurse
Chakkai ESI Hospital, Thiruvananthapuram

It's historic to be part of the vaccination. As frontline warriors, we nurses always have had the anxiety of getting the infection. Now with the vaccination, we can work with more confidence and pride. Receiving the vaccine was extremely comfortable, and I didn't have any kind of allergic reactions. It was not even a bit painful. I was not a bit tense. The arrangements at the centre were really good.

I didn’t have any concern as I am a health worker. I can answer the questions, on the concerns raised by the general public around me on the vaccination. Only if we take the vaccine if we can eradicate COVID-19. My experience as a healthcare worker enabled me to help people in my neighbourhood who got the disease.

I read that there could be meager side-effects. But when we are drowning, we should catch the plank we get. We would reach nowhere if we keep thinking about the chance that the plank could drown too.

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