From ASHA workers to cold chain keeper, here’s where the unseen people responsible for the COVID-19 vaccine are reaching out to you
at 9 am; January 16, 2021. Dr. TR John has reason to remember this date and time. The head of the medical service, Aster Medcity, Kochi, prepared to oversee the first jab of a COVID-19 vaccine at the hospital and felt the beginning of the end of a battle. An Indian Army veteran, who served in J&K for eight years before taking premature retirement, says, “It felt like just before the attack on the enemy started. It’s been a fight after all.”
what to expect
- Vaccination centers have been identified considering the availability of three different rooms – a waiting area, a room for vaccination, and another to monitor the recipient for half an hour after receiving the vaccine. Ambulances will be available at the centers in case of adverse reaction. The recipient’s identity card is verified with registration on the CoWIN platform before the vaccine is given. Dr TR John explains that a team of four immunization officers and one vaccinator will take the individual through a process of identification, vaccination, observation and follow-up advice.
For most of humanity, the fight against the coronavirus has also been a question of marking the time. The world has waited with bated breath after scientists doubled down on their efforts to find solutions. Finally, as the weapon to combat the virus began rolling out globally, and in India on January 16, hope and relief, despite doubts, bind us all.
in front line
“A special duty; a service to the nation,” describes his role as Kunal Aggarwal, co-founder of Coolex Cold Chain. Agarwal stood at his depot in Pune on January 12 4 a.m. to monitor the dispatch of cold chain trucks carrying Covishield, (a COVID-19 vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca with Oxford University, UK, and manufactured by Serum Institute of India) to the airport .
“It was a proud moment for our organization. Our fleet of 400 GPS-enabled trucks regularly transport highly sensitive drugs and vaccines across the country, but this time was different.
India has confirmed more than 10.3 million cases and more than 150,000 deaths since the pandemic began. In the first phase of vaccination, 30 crore persons will be vaccinated, including one crore health workers, 2 crore frontline workers and 27 crore people above 50 years of age with medical co-morbidities.
- Dr Abdul Ghafoor, an infectious diseases consultant at Apollo Hospitals, conducted a survey three weeks ago. The results showed that 45% wanted to take the jab as soon as it was ready, while 55% were undecided and wanted to postpone it.
Latha Raju, an Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) worker has been doing field work with palliative care for the last 10 years and was deputed to track 500 houses in two divisions of the Cochin Corporation during the ongoing pandemic . He reported 78 positive COVID cases and four deaths from his area. “Our prayers have been answered. We have fought courageously. Vaccines bring hope,” says Lata.
This is a line that is echoed by Yadhu Krishna, an ambulance driver. Yadhu, who has worked with 11 COVID-19 first line treatment centers in Kochi, admitted to the fear in the initial stages and said that he will now work to allay the panic and fear among the people.
hearts and minds
On the other side of the world, in the US, Dr. Suzannah Alex John, assistant professor of internal medicine and rheumatology specialist at Emory University School of Medicine, felt a sense of awe and was “humbled and blessed upon receiving the vaccine”.
An installation depicting Coronavirus by Kochi artist Bindi Rajagopal
The doctor, who hails from Kochi and studied medicine in Puducherry, was among the first batch to be vaccinated with mRNA Pfizer vaccine. She describes the entire operation as “history in the making.” I am following the development of the vaccine. It is because of the dedicated hard work of researchers and scientists that we have produced it in record time. People worry about its under test, moving fast but it’s actually been in the making for almost three decades. It is a strong vaccine,” Dr Suzanna said while sharing a picture of the smiling nurse giving her the jab.
With hectic preparations for the vaccination schedule and the conclusion of the dry run, Dr M G Sivadas, Ernakulam District Nodal Office, is finally breathing easy for COVID. “We have done everything as per the guidelines of the government. Nothing to worry about, but a lot of enthusiasm. This is for humanity,” says the doctor who wants the grassroots frontline workers to be vaccinated first.
With mass vaccination going on, “hope is eternal in the human heart,” says Dr. Vasudevan, recalling the smallpox vaccine he used to take as a child. “That was medieval torture. It’s just a jab on the upper arm. We really have come a long way,” he says.