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Punjab vaccine rollout: Health workers who survived Covid among those to be vaccinated first

Shelly, a senior nurse at Jalandhar’s Civil Hospital, is in the first list of healthcare workers from Punjab that will get the vaccine shot beginning on January 16. She, in fact, was the first health worker from the city’s Civil Hospital that had got infected with Covid-19 in June. After her case, several members of the nursing staff had tested positive.

As Punjab gets set to roll out the vaccination drive on Saturday at 59 sites across 22 districts, Shelly says she does not want to remember the difficult time and just focus on getting the vaccine.

A statement by the state government said that Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh will launch the drive at 11:30 am, adding that the state received total 2.04 lakh free doses and 40,000 health workers will be vaccinated daily in coming five days.

“Emotionally that time was very painful as you were separated from the family but it was mandatory for their betterment too. It was scary and doctors had kept my morale up,” she said.

District Health Officer, Kapurthala, Dr Kuljit Singh, a Covid-19 survivor, is also in Punjab government’s first list of health staff, which will cover doctors, nurses, paramedics, ambulance staff, ASHA workers and ward staff. In Kapurthala, along with Dr Kujit Singh, there are half a dozen health workers who are Covid survivors and will be vaccinated beginning Saturday.

“I started getting mild fever and dry cough, along with body ache in early July and after testing positive, I isolated myself at home and started taking the prescribed medication, Vitamin C rich diet, and kept myself busy in my work as during Covid-19 ‘work from home’ is an option available to everyone,” said Dr Kuljit.

He added: “Being a doctor myself I was not scared and kept a positive attitude while the family was quite concerned….I am happy that vaccination has come and gradually the entire population will be covered which is a huge relief in such a crisis period,” he said, adding that they lost one of the health workers to Covid in Kapurthala district.

Like nurse Shelly and Dr Kuljit, there are around 1,500 health workers across the state that got infected. Around 10 out of them died. Now, the vaccination drive will cover 1.74 lakh health workers in the state first.

The vaccine drive has been planned in a phased manner with priority groups — healthcare workers, frontline workers, elderly (above 50 year age) and population below 50 years and with comorbidities.

Orientation on the use of the vaccine has also been conducted. Earlier, a dry run for the smooth run of vaccination was also done at all sites as per SOPs. Only registered beneficiaries will be vaccinated.

Speaking about the drive, Punjab Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said that a total of 2.04 20,880 doses have been supplied to district Amritsar, 41,60 to Barnala, 12,430 to Bathinda, 5,030 to Faridkot, 4,400 to Fatehgarh Sahib, 4,670 to Fazilka, 6,200 to Ferozepur, 9,790 to Gurdaspur, 9,570 to Hoshiarpur, 16,490 to Jalandhar, 4,600 to Kapurthala, 36,510 to Ludhiana, 3,160 to Mansa, 2,600 to Moga, 5,860 to Pathankot, 11,080 to Patiala, 6,360 to Rupnagar, 7,660 to Sangrur, 13,640 to SAS Nagar, 5,300 to SBS Nagar, 5,420 to Sri Muktsar Sahib and 8,210 vaccine doses have been distributed to district Tarn Taran. He said that the doses are proportionally distributed for health care workers on the basis of the database.

The sites which have already provided the first dose will necessarily plan for a second dose post 28 days as per protocol, he said.

In Jalandhar, District Immunization Officer Dr Rakesh Chopra said that they have got 16,490 does and these have been placed at Civil Hospital, Jalandhar and two other places.

Civil Surgeon, Nawanshahr, Dr Gurdeep Singh Kapur informed that they have identified around 4,300 front line workers from government and private health care systems and against these they got around 5,300 doses with an assumption of 10 per cent wastage and they will cover everyone. He added that the dose will be administered at Civil Hospital and at the community health centre where 200 health workers will be covered on Saturday and then it will continue the process till all are not covered. The information about the vaccination has been provided to the health workers on CoWIN App.

At Government Medical College, Amritsar, which catered Covid-19 patients from eight district of Majha and Doaba, 100 vaccine doses will be given out on Saturday.

“There is neither any excitement nor sense of relief among the staff. There are reservations about the vaccine. Everybody is waiting and watching. Nobody is jumping the queue to get it first,” said a doctor at Government Medical College, Amritsar. While doctors have their own apprehensions, ASHAs are equally concerned.

In Amritsar, the vaccination drive will be run at the Government Medical College Amritsar, district hospital and at government hospitals at Verka.

“300 beneficiaries will get vacation in Amritsar on Saturday. 100 beneficiaries will get vaccine at each center. For now we will vaccinate only health workers. We have 20,000 doses in district. Our first aim is to cover all health workers,” said Civil Surgeon Charanjit Singh.

“Government has forgotten to honour the ASHA workers. Our contribution during Covid-19 has never been recognised by the government. So now government shouldn’t make us scapegoats to get the vaccination. We will hold a meeting Saturday and will decide if we have to get the vaccination shots or not. We are not in hurry,” said Paramjit Kaur Mann, ASHA Facilitator, in Amritsar.

Civil Surgeon Tarn Taran, Rohit Mehta, said, “There are some reservations. Some employee organisations are trying to make issue out of it as it is national issue now and everybody is watching it. So they are also trying to get media coverage out of it. Vaccination is perfectly safe. I myself will get vaccinated and there is nothing to fear.”

He added, “Also many of those expressing reservations are not doing it because of the vaccine but as they have issues with policy of the government. The alleged side-affects of vaccine are just rumours. Why would I vaccinate myself if it is not safe? There is nothing to fear.”

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