The first day of the coronavirus inoculation drive, held at 161 centres across Gujarat, was marked by both hope and reservations. A total of 11,800 healthcare workers, including senior doctors engaged in treating Covid-19 patients and morgue workers responsible for disposing of bodies of patients who succumbed to the infection, received the vaccines — Covishield, the Indian variant of the Oxford- AstraZeneca vaccine — on the first day, of the targeted 16,000.
Several doctors across Gujarat decided to take the jab first as a confidence building measure. Among the first to receive the vaccine at Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, which housed the largest Covid-19 facility at the peak of the pandemic, was Dr Ketan Desai, a former Medical Council of India (MCI) president who was also on the committee advising the state government on Covid-19 strategies. A urologist, Dr Desai was arrested in 2010 on graft charges by the CBI.
“I think our drive went excellently. While the target was to get 100 persons vaccinated per centre, it is practically not possible as some sites did not have as many health workers. Not a single adverse event was reported across the state,” State immunisation officer Nayan Jani said Saturday.
At the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, Dr Naveen Thacker, a paediatrician and the director of Gandhidham hospital, currently also a part of the Gujarat government’s expert task force, was the first to take the vaccine in presence of Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel and other health officials. Dr Atul Patel, an infectious diseases specialist, who was formerly also a part of the state government’s task force and a part of the national task force on clinical research, also took the vaccine on the day. During a media interaction in April, he had hypothesised how Gujarat’s high fatality rate could be due to the significant presence of the ‘L’ strain over ‘S’ strain, which had been highly contested by many, including microbiologists, owing to a lack of conclusive scientific evidence.
BJP leader and former (Congress) MLA from Viramgam, Dr Tejashree Patel, who is also a gynaecologist, was the first to receive the vaccine at a Primary Health Centre (PHC) in Manipur, near Viramgam in Ahmedabad district. Manipur, Dholka and Sanand were among the three places in Ahmedabad rural where the drive was carried out Saturday.
“My party had sent me to launch of the vaccination drive at the PHC in Manipur. When I reached the venue, I found that some beneficiaries, who were supposed to come for the vaccination, had not turned up… It was then that I decided to take the first shot. This was to send a message among the people that nothing will happen if the vaccine is taken. To boost people’s morale is also a way of serving people,” Patel said.
Dr JV Modi, the medical superintendent at Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, who had tested positive for Covid-19 earlier also took the shot on the first day. “When I checked for anti-body titer, it was absent. I would advise everyone to get the shot. I took it to inspire others and prove that it is completely safe,” Dr Modi said.
Across the 20 centres under the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation — the maximum vaccination sites to be set up in a district or under a municipal corporation in the state — the target, however, fell short by nearly a 1,000, with 1,115 getting inoculated on Saturday. Of the 100 listed to take the vaccine at Ahmedabad Civil Hospital Saturday, only 56 took the dose while several others did not show up. Across six other vaccination sites on the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital campus, including Institute of Kidney Diseases & Research Centre (IKDRC), Gujarat Cancer Research Institute (GCRI), 210 others were vaccinated.
Director of Indian Institute of Public Health Dr Dileep Mavlankar, former president of Ahmedabad Medical Association Dr Mona Desai, and additional medical superintendents at the 1,200-bed Covid-19 unit at Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, Dr Rakesh Joshi and Dr Rajnish Patel, were also inoculated.
Meanwhile, an Ahmedabad Civil Hospital platoon personnel, who is expected to be vaccinated in the second phase of inoculating frontline workers, said: “While I had registered my name for vaccination, this is all for publicity. Every day I am hearing something or the other (related to the vaccine). Let them take it, I won’t show up when my turn comes. I have the liberty to opt out.”
In Surat city, Dr Jignesh Gangadia, the president of the Junior Doctors’ Association at the New Civil Hospital (NCH), was among the first to receive the jab. Uploading pictures of him getting the shot on the social media, Gangadia said, “This was to motivate other doctors and create awareness.” Gangadia, who is doing his MD from the Government Medical College, had worked at the Covid-19 hospital and was infected with the virus earlier. Soon after recovering, he had joined duty at the Covid hospital.
Deputy Health Commissioner of the Surat Municipal Corporation, Dr Ashish Naik, said 500 beneficiaries had been administered the vaccine till afternoon. “Not a single case of side-effects has been reported so far. We are in regular contact with the vaccinators in Surat and have told them to report back if anything unusual happens,” he said.
In Surat, Covishield vaccine doses were administered to the health workers at 14 centres including NCH; SMC-run SMIMER hospital; Magob health centre, P P Sawani Heart Institute, Varachha; Mota Varachha Health Centre; SD Diamond Hospital, Varachha; Bhatena Community Health Centre; Arogya Hospital, Pandesara; Apple Hospital, Udhna Darwaja; United Green hospital, Anand Mahal Road; Shalby Hospital; Navyug College; BAPS Pramukh Swami Hospital, Adajan; Mahavir Hospital, Athwagate; and Kiran hospital, Katargam.
With several ministers and bureaucrats present at the centres, social-distancing norms, however, were violated at several places. A senior doctor, who received the vaccine, said, “This just might become a super-spreader event.”
In Saurashtra, the vaccination exercise remained smooth barring minor incidents, largely due to the ongoing strike by health workers of district panchayats. No adverse reaction to the vaccine was reported from anywhere.
In Rajkot district, vaccination sessions were conducted at referral hospitals in Jasdan, Gondal and Jetpur towns. Against the target of 300 people, who were to be administered the doses, a total of 302 people were given the shots. “In Jasdan, Dr Deepak Ramani, a well-known surgeon in the town, took the first shot to boost the confidence of other candidates. In Gondal and Jetpur, superintendents of both the hospitals stood first in the line. In Gondal, three people remained absent — while one had a medical emergency, the other had developed a sore throat. But others volunteered in their place and we could achieve the target administering the vaccine to 100 people in Gondal. In Jetpur, against the target of 100 doses, we administered the vaccine to 102,” Dr Mitesh Bhanderi, the Chief District Health Officer (CDHO) of Rajkot, said.
In Rajkot city, however, the response was tepid. As against the targeted 600, the vaccine could be administered to around 400. “People want to wait and watch and, therefore, some did not turn up. But nonetheless, we can call this a good response,” Udit Agrawal, Rajkot Municipal Commissioner, said.
The vaccination centre in the state government-run PDU Hospital in Rajkot, popularly known as the Rajkot Civil Hospital, remained an exception in the city and achieved the target of vaccinating 100 people. “We administered doses to 100 people as there was no absenteeism. There were no second thoughts about the shot from any of them and till now no adverse reaction has been reported,” Dr Pankaj Buch, in-charge medical superintendent of the civil hospital, said.
In Porbandar district, against the target of 200, the vaccine could be administered to 179. “Around 140 health workers of the Porbandar district panchayat are on the strike and their approach presently is that they would neither take the vaccine shot themselves nor would administer it to others. Due to the strike, we had to enlist people from other departments and these people had some apprehensions about the vaccine. Someone said that they were lactating mothers and would therefore wait and watch for a couple of days and then would get themselves inoculated. At Adwana community health centre (CHC), we could achieve 83 vaccinations against the target of 100. We had replacement volunteers, but as they were on the list, we did not administer them doses. At Bhavsinhji hospital, 96 people were administered the doses,” Dr Kavita Dave, CDHO of Porbandar said.
The GK General Hospital in Bhuj town of Kutch witnessed a lot of enthusiasm. “We were to administer the vaccine to 100 people but actually we overachieved the target by vaccinating total of 117 people. Each box of vaccine contains 10 doses and as we had opened 12 such boxes, we didn’t want the vaccine to go waste so we administered doses to people who were not on the list for the day but came forward for it voluntarily,” Dr Kashyap Buch, the Chief District Medical Officer of Kutch, said.
In the Vadodara Municipal Corporation limits, 295 female and 305 male healthcare workers were vaccinated at the six locations. With 100 recipients at each of the centres — six in VMC limits and four additional centres in district areas — a total of 1,000 beneficiaries received the Covishield vaccine on Saturday.
Dr Hemant Mathur, the Assistant Medical Superintendent and orthopaedic department dean at SSG Hospital, was the first to receive the vaccine at the hospital centre, followed by other doctors, nursing staff and Class IV workers. The other centres in Vadodara included the civic-run Jamnabai hospital, two private hospitals — Satyam hospital in Chhani and BAPS Atladara — and two Urban Primary Health Centres in Kishanwadi and Maneja.
In Narmada district, a total of 150 people were registered for vaccinations at the two centres of Rajpipla Urban Primary Health Centre and Tilakada Primary Health Centre — 100 and 50 respectively. However, only 51 people turned up at the two centres — 25 of 100 registered recipients turned up at Rajpipla, and 26 at the Tilakwada PHC. Until noon, only three persons had received the vaccine at the PHC.
Medical officer of Tilakwada PHC, Dr Kalpesh Rathwa, said, “There must be some amount of inhibition that we have had only 26 of the designated 50 persons. We had received 60 doses in 10 vials and we have now stored the remaining doses in the vaccination freezer at the centre. We have received instructions to administer the doses to the recipients if they turn up at any point. Additionally, we have also received a circular to administer the dose to health workers beginning Monday as part of the routine tasks.”
Dr Vipul Gamit, the Additional District Health Officer, Narmada, said, “There are inhibitions among the tribal population because it is the first day of the drive. As they see that there have been no side effects, they will slowly come forward. Our health teams are undertaking awareness programmes and also counselling people.”
On Saturday, Gujarat reported a seven-month low of daily Covid-19 cases with 505 new cases of the infection recorded. Three others succumbed to the infection across the state.