Moments after he became the Himalayan state’s first person to be administered the Covid vaccine, he smiled and said, “I feel as if I have come out of an hour-long meditation. I feel refreshed and rejuvenated, ready to take on the pandemic with renewed vigour.” There were loud cheers all around. Some patted his back. As India began vaccinations against a disease that has by now taken over two million lives across countries big and small, the immunisation drive felt more like a festival at many places than a public health project. Across, towards the east, sites were decked with flowers in Bhubaneswar, the tricolor fluttering, balloons bobbing in the winter wind.
By 6pm, as many as 13,292 people, against a target of 16,314, had taken the injection in Odisha. Prahlad Suna, 36, a safai karamchari in Sambalpur, said it’s like he’s won the lottery. “This will remain a moment to cherish for life,” he told the others assembled there. “I have done duty at the Covid hospital here and I saw the pain of those suffering.”
The local administration didn’t take any chances either. When the Co-Win app developed technical snags, officials quickly contacted intended beneficiaries by calling them and sending text messages individually. “The strategy worked,” additional chief secretary-health, Pradipta Kumar Mohapatra, said. “It took care of absenteeism too.”
Far away in Mumbai, Vimla Kharat, 49, had brought along immediate concerns and bad memories. As she thrust her arm forward at KEM Hospital in Parel, flashing through her mind was the family’s Covid-induced upheaval. Her husband battled the virus in June for 40 days, needing ventilator support for the extensive lung damage. Then her daughter fell prey. Both recovered but the trauma remains. “Everyone should take the vaccine,” she said with urgency.
Bollywood song turns a sombre mood celebratory
In Gurgaon, as the PM’s address ended and the local MLA cut the ribbon for the vaccination programme to start, the mood was sombre at the Bhangrola public health centre. Then, all of a sudden, loudspeakers began to blare. Dr Neeru Yadav, the senior medical officer, was standing with a mic. “Come on, play some Bollywood songs,” she said.
The song that played was the popular ‘Swag se karenge sabka swagat’. A few gingerly started shaking a leg. But, as so often happens in this country, within minutes the mood turned celebratory. Almost everyone joined in. The dance could well have been called Vaccine-Bhangra.