Ajit Lokhande, the owner of Sharwari Wadewale in Pune's Wagholi area.
Ajit Lokhande, the owner of Sharwari Wadewale in Pune's Wagholi area.

The coronavirus pandemic took away our near and dear ones, and even after nearly 18 months of the raging infection, we still cannot be careless or complacent. At the moment, the caseload has significantly dropped in the country but the threat due to the highly infectious Delta Plus variant is on the rise and there is obviously the impending third wave, which is projected to hit its peak between October-November and is touted to be more infectious due to the emergence of new virulent strains (Kappa, Lambda, et al.) However, there is a silver lining.

For the most part of this ongoing pandemic, we did not have any weapon to combat the virus. But, with the tireless efforts of scientists from around the world, we now have several vaccines. Currently in India, we have three vaccines available—Serum Institute of India's Covishield, Bharat Biotech's Covaxin, and Sputnik V from Russia. Besides, the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has also granted permission to the Mumbai-based pharmaceutical company Cipla to import Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. Moreover, the Centre is also holding discussions with Pfizer and other vaccine manufacturing companies. The vaccines have literally proven to be a shot in the arm. They boast good efficacy rates and are capable of mounting high immune responses against the virus.

However, due to certain myths and misconceptions, there is a misguided vaccine hesitancy among the people. It is fuelled mostly by fake WhatsApp forwards which go on to list endless side effects due to the vaccines, for example: it causes infertility, it develops magnetism, it isn't safe for lactating women, it contains the newborn calf serum or pork-derived ingredients, and the list goes on. Meanwhile, the government has time and again busted these baseless misconceptions. Several clothing brands, restaurants, airlines, and other businesses are assisting the government in promoting the COVID-19 vaccination drive by rolling out special discounts and incentives. Now, several local shop owners have also come up with interesting offers to spread the message.

Ajit Lokhande, the owner of Sharwari Wadewale in Pune's Wagholi area, has come up with a rather delicious offer. He gives one vada pav free on every two plates of kanda bhaji to those who have taken the shot. When asked about this delectable offer, Lokhande said he is doing his bit in encouraging people to take the jabs. "Maharashtra had and still has the highest number of cases. The Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray-led government had earlier started the 'My Family, My Responsibility' campaign and similarly, I think Maharashtra is one big family and it is our responsibility to protect everyone. And encouraging them to take the vaccine is surely one way to do it," he said.

Ajit Lokhande, the owner of Sharwari Wadewale in Pune's Wagholi area.
Ajit Lokhande, the owner of Sharwari Wadewale in Pune's Wagholi area.

Lokhande said small businesses like his incurred heavy losses during the first lockdown. "People were afraid to get out of their homes during the first wave. In the second, shops were open but the timings kept changing every now and then. We did face losses but have now learned from it," he said. "In my shop, I don't let anyone come without a mask. My staff always have their masks and gloves on, and keep at least a two-feet distance from the customers. The shop is sanitized at least 5-6 times in a day," he added. Avoiding the third wave is in our hands, Lokhande further said, adding we must take the vaccines and ensure everyone around us takes them.

Another store that sells dietary supplements for exercise and athletic performance in Pimpri Chinchwad's Bhosari area, The Athlete's Nutrition, is giving peanut butter worth Rs. 500 for free on every purchase of whey protein to the vaccinated.

The Athlete's Nutrition, Pimpri Chinchwad.
The Athlete's Nutrition, Pimpri Chinchwad.

Speaking about the offer, the owner Suyash Mutha said the cash flow had almost stopped during the lockdown, and this is one way to attract the customers. "The stock is currently not getting sold as it used to and has reached its expiry. Besides, the raw material rates have gone up for the manufacturers, which has resulted in an increase in the rates of the products, Mutha said. "The second reason for the offer is that we don't want another lockdown, and taking the vaccine seems the only way forward. Hence, I am trying to persuade my customers to take the jab," he added.

The pandemic also impacted the wedding business. With limits being set for guests, the big-fat Indian weddings became a dull affair. Practically every business linked to the weddings--catering, photography, clothing, and many others--suffered a major setback. Hoping for a revival in his business and encouraging his customers to take the jab, Sujay Gaikwad, the owner of The Attitude Store in Pune's Chandan Nagar area is offering a 20% discount to those who have taken the shot. "Currently, the only way to stop the virus is vaccination. I am of the opinion that as many people as possible should take the vaccine. So, I'm urging people to take the jab, and for the same reason I've come up with this discount," Gaikwad said.

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