“Something has finally started and we can now be more hopeful,” said the very excited and happy Vikas Maurya, Director and Head of Department, Pulmonology, Fortis Hospital Shalimar Bagh in interaction with Opoyi while talking about the first day of COVID-19 vaccination drive in the country, which the hospital was part of too.

Thirteen months after the first COVID-19 outbreak in China's Wuhan, the inoculation drive finally started on Saturday in the country. Frontline and healthcare workers were among the first batch of three crore recipients of the vaccine in the first phase.

“I think it was quite good, the process was quite smooth and went very well. I was the first one to get the vaccine and there was no issue with it. There was no pain and no fever so it was a smooth experience,” said Maurya.

Talking about people's concern for the side-effects, he said that “We made them clear that vaccine has been made after due consideration and safety. I think people are listening to a lot of things from outside and there were lots of apprehensions about the vaccine, which we tried to clear them off. Also, I think now because it has been taken by health care workers and others, it will boost the confidence of other people who are having apprehension about safety issues and irrelevant things like infertility.”

The vaccination drive that started after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech on Saturday morning in the hospital will go on till late evening.

Doctor Shuchin Bajaj, Founder & Director, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals that will start the drive from Monday, is equally excited.

“Make no mistake about it, we have been in a war zone for over a year now and this is the beginning of the end of the war. It’s very generous and kind of all the governments around the world who have recognized that doctors and health care workers have been really at the frontlines of this fight against the pandemic without any proper weapon so they have been allowed first use of the vaccine,” he told Opoyi.

Talking about preparations, he said that they have gone through an extensive dry run under the supervision of all experts, and “we have trained our health workers, paramedics and doctors to recognize any adverse events very early on and to deal with them if they occur”

“…but I am hopeful that there will be nothing of that sort. The vaccine looks very safe to me and today morning we have seen people being vaccinated including the director of AIIMS and I didn’t see any side effects,” he said.

So does vaccination mean we are ready to roam around freely without safety norms?

“I don’t think anybody should move freely without any safety norms for a year at least but with the vaccine, it takes at least 15 to 18 days after the second shot that you get after four weeks of the first shot then another two to three weeks after that so at least three months from the first shot to develop the significant antibodies which will protect you against the virus. Also, till the time everybody is not vaccinated, we need to follow our SMS- sanitization, mask and social distancing and everybody has to keep precautions,” says Bajaj.

Also many say that with the vaccine available on the market now, the black-marketing of it will be the biggest precaution so how hospitals are taking care of that? To which Bajaj said, “Some bad elements will always be around to exploit this kind of thing, to exploit human miseries in all situations.”

“…but I feel with the current system, its full proof as everything is online and is generated and recorded on a platform. The vaccine will only be given once the OTP is generated and delivered on the phone number of the beneficiary so it will be very difficult to black-market the vaccine and send them outside because each of these vaccines will be recorded and corroborated by an OTP , which is sent to the recipient platform. We hope there will be no error in it,” he sums up.