Serum Institute of India’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin were deployed across the country on Saturday. Covaxin was deployed in 11 states — Assam, Bihar, Delhi, Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh. The highest number of beneficiaries to get vaccinated were in Uttar Pradesh (21,291), followed by Andhra Pradesh (18,412) and Maharashtra (18,328).
After Prime Minister Narendra Modi kickstarted the vaccine rollout with an address to healthcare workers and vaccinators on Saturday, Manish Kumar, a sanitation worker, became India’s first Covid vaccine beneficiary at Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences’ vaccination centre. Later, AIIMS director Randeep Guleria and NITI Aayog Member (Health) Dr V K Paul, the two prominent faces in India’s fight against Covid-19, were administered Covaxin at the same centre. With this, the government sought to put to rest doubts that have been raised over the indigenously developed Covaxin.
The vaccination drive started just after 11 am and ended at 5.30 pm across 3,352 vaccination sites. During the day, several sites reported problems with CoWIN, the app that is the backbone of the drive.
Speaking to reporters at the end of Day 1, Agnani said, “There were two main problems that were reported — delay in uploading of beneficiary list at some session sites and healthcare workers who were not scheduled to be vaccinated were administered the vaccine. We solved the two issues and system performance and speed would be further optimised.”
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan held a review meeting with state health ministers to figure out how to respond to the problems. Assam and Maharashtra were among the states that reported some beneficiaries complained of mild cases of adverse events following immunisation.
DELHI: Vaccines bring cheer to hospitals
Nursing assistants Aisha Mandal and Kusum Sinha at Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital, Tahirpur, were elated to be the first to get their vaccine shots on Day 1 of the Covid inoculation drive.
“But I had to win a battle at home to make my parents understand that the vaccines are safe,” said Mandal, who had been on Covid duty since March. “If I doubt the vaccines, how will others trust them?” She wasn’t bothered about which vaccine she got. “It doesn’t matter. I trust my scientists.”
SII’s Covishield was administered at 75 Delhi government and private hospitals, while Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin was given at six vaccination sites in central government hospitals. Around 8,100 healthcare workers were scheduled to get their shots on Saturday. Doctors and health care workers seemed to be in an upbeat mood.
At the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the first jab was administered to Manish Kumar, a sanitary assistant. He got Covaxin. AIIMS Director Randeeep Guleria, who also took the shot, said: “I have just taken Covaxin and feel absolutely fine. Vaccines are the only way to break the chain of transmission, bring down the death rates further and slowly go back to normal life.”
At Max Smart Super Speciality Hospital, Saket, there was a celebratory mood. Medical Superintendent Dr Seher Qureshi said the vaccination day was the first festival they had celebrated in the last one year.
Doctors on duty were quick to quell doubts about vaccine’s side effects. “A select group is spreading rumours. Still, we will be observing everyone for 30 minutes after the jabs,” said Dr Atul Peters, director, bariatrics department, Max. An Adverse Event Following Immunisation team was at hand to investigate any complication.
At AIIMS, Health Minister Harshvarshan said: “Both vaccines have been subject to adequate scientific scrutiny and received emergency authorisation after ensuring safety, effectiveness and immunogenicity. Hence, there is no need to fear.”
At Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, even as Medical Superintendent Dr Rana AK Singh got a Covaxin jab, a group of resident doctors shot off a letter requesting that Covishield be given in place of Covaxin. “Covishield has completed all stages of the trial before its rollout,” the letter added.
RML doctors say no to Covaxin
Doctors at Delhi’s Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital refused Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin shots, as India started the world’s largest vaccination drive on Saturday.
The resident doctors demanded that they be administered Covishield vaccine and not Covaxin as the former has completed all three stages of trials. “We will prefer Covishield and won’t take Covaxin,” Nirmalya Mohapatra, senior resident and VP of the Resident Doctors’ Association, RML, told ET Magazine.
In a letter to the medical superintendent of the facility, the association said: “Covaxin, manufactured by Bharat Biotech, is being preferred over Covishield, manufactured by Serum Institute, in our hospital. We would like to bring to your notice that the residents are a bit apprehensive about the lack of complete trial in the case of Covaxin and might not participate in huge numbers, thus defeating the purpose of the vaccination. We request you to vaccinate us with Covishield which has completed all stages of the trial before its rollout.”
Mohapatra said a lot of doctors have not given their names for the drive launched today. “We are not saying it is bad but there is no efficacy data yet. We have therefore decided not to take it,” he added. Later in the day, a senior RML official said 31 people have been vaccinated and no side effects have been reported.
MAHARASHTRA: Vaccination rollout is revolutionary, says Uddhav Thackeray
The vaccination drive in Maharashtra began with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Mumbai Municipal Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal flagging it off at the Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai.
The drive is being conducted at 285 centres in the state where around 28,500 healthcare workers would administer the dose. Mumbai has 9 centres and 40 booths to vaccinate 4,000 health workers daily. Dr Madhura Patil was one of the first to receive the dose in Mumbai.
CM Thackeray called the vaccination rollout “revolutionary” but also exhorted the people to keep wearing masks and practise social distancing. The state has received around 9.63 lakh doses of Covishield produced by the Serum Institute of India and around 20,000 doses of Covaxin from Bharat Biotech. The state is however not happy with the number of doses as it had demanded 7 lakh more vaccine doses. Maharashtra plans to vaccinate over 8 lakh health workers in the next two months.
When asked if vaccines would be free, the CM said that he is waiting to hear from the Centre on the pricing of the drug. Maharashtra has been demanding that the Centre provide the vaccines free of cost to the state.
Meanwhile, Prakash Ambedkar who heads the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi said he would not take either vaccine till PM Modi and CM Thackeray have taken it.
KARNATAKA: Ward attendant gets first shot in Bengaluru
Ten frontline workers received the first shot of Covid-19 vaccine at the Victoria Hospital in Bengaluru in a vaccination rollout that was incident-free in Karnataka. Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa kicked off the drive in Bengaluru.
Cleaners and attendants were the first to receive the dose followed by paramedics, technicians, nursing staff and doctors. Ward attendant Nagarathna, 28, was the first recipient in Bengaluru. Manipal Hospitals Chairman Dr Sudarshan Ballal, who was one of the first few recipients of the vaccine, said, “The process of vaccination was extremely smooth. After two hours of the vaccination I’m feeling fine with no side-effects so far.”
Biocon founder Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw described the vaccination launch as a proud moment. She, however, urged the government to reconsider its decision to not indemnify manufacturers.
Karnataka has set up 243 vaccination facilities in the state, including 10 in Bengaluru. The government has provided Covishield at 237 centres and Covaxin at six centres.
WEST BENGAL: Over 9,000 vaccinations in the state
At 10:30 am, the Dr Dilip Mahalanabis Hall at the Infectious Diseases & Beliaghata General Hospital in Kolkata had no empty seats on Saturday for the streaming session of PM Narendra Modi’s inaugurating India’s Covid-19 vaccination drive.
At 11:05 am, as soon as Modi’s speech finished, a queue was formed outside the hall of the hospital’s doctors, nurses, paramedics and housekeeping staff who have been selected for the first day of the jab.
The setting was the same across state government hospitals. Over 1,800 healthcare professionals received the Covid-19 vaccine jab in the city on the first day of the vaccination drive, while over 9,000 vaccinations were completed at the state level.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee monitored the drive from the secretariat and later virtually addressed medical workers at the 207 vaccination sites across the state. She said she has requested the Centre to supply adequate number of vaccines for everyone in the state, that vaccination should be free and the state is ready to bear expenses.
Dr A Banerjee of AMRI Hospitals, who took the vaccine, said all vaccines have pros and cons but in the case of Covishield the benefits outweigh the risks. “I have already suffered from Covid and took the vaccine since I don’t want to take the risk again, including passing on to my patients and families and eventually seeing them on a ventilator,” she said.
Senior doctors were largely absent across hospitals on Day One of vaccination. However, hospital officials said it is due to the vaccination roster and they too would receive it later.
TAMIL NADU: Doctors take the shot to build confidence
Tamil Nadu CM Edappadi K Palaniswami inaugurated the Covid-19 vaccination drive in the state at the Government Rajaji Hospital in Madurai on Saturday.
“The untiring efforts of the PM have resulted in India developing the vaccines,” the CM said as the first dose of the vaccine was administered to Tamil Nadu Government Doctors’ Association president Dr K Senthil. The CM said he would definitely get vaccinated.
IMA national president JA Jayalal and Tamil Nadu IMA president P Ramakrishnan, Government Rajaji Hospital Dean J Sangumani and Apollo Hospitals Group Chairman Dr Prathap C Reddy were among those who were given the vaccine on the first day. The government had earlier said that 10 leading medical practitioners have volunteered to take the vaccine to build confidence among frontline workers and the public at large.
The state has received 5,36,500 doses of Covishield and 20,000 doses of Covaxin; it has 166 vaccination centres.
For those who take Covaxin, it is mandatory to sign a consent form that states only Phase 1 and 2 trials have been completed. At Chennai’s Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital (RGGGH), the homegrown Covaxin was the vaccine of choice for healthcare professionals. “I decided to take the Covaxin shot after going through the review and the latest updates that said no one has developed any reaction to it,” said Dr Theranirajan, dean, RGGGH.
“Also, I thought it would encourage others to opt for it. In the morning people were very hesitant to take Covaxin, but later on, the numbers began increasing and we received 52 registrations for Covaxin and 30 for Covishield.”
Andhra Pradesh: Jagan attends inauguration
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy attended the Covid-19 vaccination programme at the Government Central Hospital in Vijayawada on Saturday, which was among the 332 locations identified for the launch.
The state has received 4.7 lakh doses of Covishield and 20,000 doses of Covaxin for the initial phase to vaccinate 3.87 lakh healthcare and frontline workers in the first phase.
GUJARAT: Vijay Rupani asks people to be wary of rumours
Leading private doctors of the city got vaccinated at the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital on Saturday. The hospital staff also got their shots.
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and Deputy Chief Minister and Health Minister Nitin Patel attended the event to review the situation. Speaking on the occasion, Rupani urged people to be wary of rumours and get vaccinated without fear. The Covishield vaccine being used in the state was totally safe, he said, asking citizens to secure themselves and their families.
The first part of the vaccination drive would cover about 16,000 health workers at 161 centres across the state. Gujarat has received 5.41 lakh doses, which would be used to vaccinate 4.4 lakh health workers first. The state also has arranged for 17,128 vaccinators, 27,934 session sites and 2,236 cold chain points for the vaccination drive.
“That the doctors and health workers are being given the first jab goes to show how safe the vaccine is,” said Dr Mona Desai, president of Ahmedabad Medical Association and one of the first recipients of the vaccine. “This is a wonderful gift from the government to health workers who have been risking their lives during the pandemic, and also a message for the people to have faith in the vaccine.”
Telangana: Jab for Medical Director
Telangana medical education director Dr K Ramesh Reddy and superintendents of large government-owned hospitals were among the over 3,650 healthcare and frontline workers who got vaccinated on Saturday. Vaccination was held at 140 centres across the state.
Telangana Health Minister Etela Rajender, who had said he was ready to get the first shot in the state, apparently withdrew his statement after Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked politicians not to queue up for vaccination. Telangana public health director Dr G Srinivasa Rao said no major adverse reactions were reported. Some rashes and swelling were seen in 20 of around 3,540 persons vaccinated. The number of vaccination centres would be expanded to 1,513 in phases, said Rao.
UTTAR PRADESH: Fears allayed, over 21,000 vaccinated
Uttar Pradesh received 10,55,000 doses of Covishield until Friday and about 20,000 Covaxin doses to vaccinate more than 8.5 lakh health workers. On Saturday morning, CM Yogi Adityanath inspected the vaccination process at Balrampur Hospital, one of the 12 designated vaccination centres in Lucknow. He said all the 15 candidates who had already taken the jab before his visit were safe.
At King George’s Medical College, things seemed to flow smoothly. Doctors at the registration desk near the entrance checked candidates’ names on a list before directing them inside. One large hall housed those waiting to get their jab, another was used as an observation room for post-vaccination procedure.
Candidates said they were asked to come again on February 15 for their second dose. “Only those who take some sort of intoxicating substance on a regular basis are slightly worried,” said Ramesh Chandra Pandey, a principal assistant at the ENT department of King George Medical College. “They are worried about possible adverse combinations.”
The workers — including lab assistants and sanitation workers at wards — resumed their work at their respective departments after a 30-minute post-vaccination observation.
Nishant Verma, associate professor of paediatrics at the university, who was coordinating the process, said the candidates were counselled on Friday about the drive and any fears that they had about it had been allayed. Some candidates with pre-existing conditions like diabetics expressed some apprehension before taking the shot but their fears were addressed, he added.