Around 1 pm on Saturday, Priya* (*name changed) 28, stood chatting in a queue with a co-worker as she awaited her turn to receive Covishield, Serum Institute of India's Covid-19 vaccine, in the first basement of Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital. A nurse in the critical care unit of the hospital's cardiology ward, she was nervous yet excited about the vaccination process.
For thousands of healthcare workers like Priya, Saturday was a day of hope as India rolled out the world's largest vaccination exercise against coronavirus infection and Covid-19 disease. "I am excited to get the vaccine and also hopeful because we finally have a vaccine against Covid-19," she said.
When asked if she had read up on information about the available vaccines, she said, “I had read bits and pieces of news on hesitation against the vaccines. However, personally speaking I have faith in the vaccines,” she said.
The young healthcare worker said work had been relentless in the past year and she was glad that the healthcare workers community was getting the priority for vaccination. The Dharamshila hospital was one among the 81 facilities that was hosting a vaccination site in the national capital.
Flagged off virtually by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, vaccination began across the country around 11 am. The Centre had asked vaccination sites in the country to aim for 100 vaccinations on day one. According to East Delhi district authorities, 290 vaccinations were completed across five designated vaccination sites in the allotted time and 82 of those were completed in Dharamshila Hospital.
Tentative and Slow Turnouts, Glitches in Co-Win Application
At the Delhi State Cancer Unit (DSCI), located on the campus of Guru Teg Bahadur (GTB) Hospital, the inoculation process was slow as there was some early hesitation among healthcare workers, hospital authorities and staff said.
In a bid to reassure her hospital colleagues about the safety of the vaccine, Dr Pragya Shukla, the head of the clinical oncology department, volunteered to take the vaccine.
Dharmender, 36, a housekeeping supervisor in-charge of sanitation duties was among the first few beneficiaries at DSCI on Saturday. Hospital authorities had collected his personal information in early December to register him as a beneficiary on the centralised Co-WIN software. On Friday, he received a call from the hospital authorities and was asked to come for vaccination around 10 am.
As he entered the vaccination site on the ground floor, his details were first verified before he was asked to step into the main vaccination room. “I was told about the possible side effects such as soreness at the injection site, chills, nausea or headache. I waited for 30 minutes as requested and I feel fine after taking the vaccine. I was informed that a second dose will follow, but I was not told when that will happen,” Dharmender told News18.
He added that he was not told if government authorities will monitor his health until he receives the second dose. Dr Shukla said as the hospital's nodal officer for Covid-19 vaccination, she has provided her number to the healthcare workers for support.
The healthcare workers arriving in the same campus at GTB hospital's vaccination site were screened for temperature and oxygen saturation prior to vaccination and they were also informed about whom to contact in case they faced side effects after leaving the vaccination site.
At GTB hospital’s site as well as at DSCI site, hospital staff overseeing the vaccination said that they were facing issues with the Co-Win application due to poor server connection and had to call beneficiaries to inform them about the vaccination schedule.
Also, due to the server issues, information on who had availed the vaccination could not be fed into the Co-WIN application. Authorities had to rely on hard copies which contained lists of beneficiaries.
A nursing officer at the vaccination site, who did not wish to be named, said, “We had to make calls asking beneficiaries to arrive for vaccination as the Co-WIN app faced glitches while sending text messages. We have to verify and feed the information of healthcare workers arriving at the sites using Co-WIN. Even that could not be done due to server issues.”