At Daryaganj’s Urban Public Health Centre, anganwadi workers were called for the COVID-19 vaccination dry run and government schoolteachers were present to take care of those taking part in the drive. The anganwadi workers would be among the first beneficiaries in Delhi when the actual vaccination drive begins.
At the entrance of the health centre, 25 ‘beneficiaries’ were seen waiting in a queue. Among them was Qamar Sultana, 54, who has been an anganwadi worker for 20 years. When her turn came, her name first was checked in a list with the dispensary staff, then her identity was verified, hands sanitised and temperature checked. A second round of sanitisation and temperature checking was carried out by civil defence volunteers inside the centre.
At the registration desk, a vaccination officer sat with a schoolteacher, who reverified Ms. Sultana’s identity and entered her details in the computer. A slip was handed out to Ms. Sultana on which her name and a phone number were written.
Ms. Sultana was a little apprehensive before entering the vaccination room where the injection was to be filled, placed on her forearm and then disposed of. She knew it was a dry run but felt nervous nonetheless.
“You have been vaccinated. If you feel something, call on this number. Wear mask and maintain social distancing,” the auxiliary nurse midwife said and wrote the centre’s fixed line number on the slip produced by the ‘beneficiary’. Ms. Sultana was then sent to the observation area where two teachers attended to the ‘beneficiaries’ who were to remain seated there for the next 30 minutes.
Simple Gulati, a teacher at a north Delhi school, asked Ms. Sultana if she felt okay. “If you feel uneasy, please let me know. When you go home, continue to take all COVID-19 precautions,” she said and repeated to all those present in the room. .
After half an hour, Ms. Sultana was asked to go home. “While leaving for the health centre in the morning, I was really scared. I don’t think I want to get the vaccine. Hope God keeps us well as He has so far,” she said.
Another anganwadi worker, Pooja Morya, 26, said she was scared to the extent of backing out of the dry run but went ahead after being persuaded by a senior. “We are at the forefront in the fight to contain the spread of the pandemic. We conduct surveys, meet people and tell government officials if someone has COVID-19 symptoms. It’s good that we are the first ones to get the vaccine,” she said.
For Manju Prasad, 47, another anganwadi worker, the fear is of reaction to the actual vaccine. “The anxiety is because it is a new drug. What if something wrong happens? Trials are being conducted so it must be safe” she said.
Ms. Gulati said she was aware that schoolteachers would not be among the first beneficiaries of the vaccine. “We are proud that we are a part of the process and are able to serve the ‘beneficiaries’. These are the people who have been saving us. We are because they are. They deserve it,” she said.
For the dry run, a patient also faked reaction to the vaccine after which she was first taken to another room on a wheelchair where she was administered with adrenaline and oxygen while an ambulance was called. The ambulance reached within minutes and the patient was put on a stretcher and taken out. The time taken for the entire process was 15 minutes. A doctor at the dispensary said that patients from the Daryaganj centre will be taken to Sanjeevan Hospital, which is a few metres ahead.