Mumbai: A common woman’s take on the vaccination fever

First Person Account

As my husband and I drove to our vaccination centre on 12th May after playing fastest finger first on Cowin the previous night, we received two texts in the short car ride. Two deaths. One left behind a 3-year-old and another had tested negative but succumbed to post Covid complications. I felt a lump in my throat, teared up for a brief moment and sent up a prayer. After I composed myself, I told my husband that we are fortunate to be receiving a dose today.

In the last 30 days, we had heard about the passing of more than 50 journalists. Due to our profession, some of these were known to us and were fairly young. A whole lot of beautiful, all heart people just dying. Families being thrown into depths of darkness. No one prepared us for this. No one deserves this.

When the 18-44 category was opened up on the 1st of May, I really prayed that the journalists, the bankers, the grocery vendors and delivery boys who haven’t taken a single day off should be able to get the vaccine before us. I decided not to try for the vaccine for the first ten days. While I knew my dose wasn’t going to tip the scale but I felt it was my duty to not add to the mad rush in the first few days. After all, I had been safely working from home the last 13 + months.

At the vaccination centre we ran into some friends we thought we “knew”. Guess what? They were lined up for the second dose. Puzzled, we asked them how is that if the vaccination only opened up 10 days back for our age group. With their masks on, I couldn’t read a smile but I did notice a touch of arrogance in their eyes when they shared that they had connections and had taken the first dose in March itself. No judgement. Self-preservation is a human right and a personal matter – I told myself, wished them well and we drove back home. Once home, I decided to call a friend and offered to help book a slot on Cowin for him and his wife. We are close to their family and were aware they were going through a major legal tangle. He responded that they had decided to wait it out because their “connection” was arranging Sputnik V for them next week. He went on to elaborate how Sputnik V had the highest efficacy and they would rather be done with one dose than go through the hassle of booking first and second dose slots of the Indian vaccine. I tried my best to douse the small embers of judgement that rose inside me.

How on God’s green earth did vaccination become a story of haves and have nots?

On the same night, the government “temporarily” suspended the 18-44 vaccination programme to enable the second dose recipients to complete their inoculation with the limited stocks. News media and social media was in heated discussion how the system has failed. I thanked my lucky stars for having received the first dose and went to sleep. Partially due to the post vaccine discomfort and rest due to the kind of day I had with my friends, sleep didn’t come easy. I decided to turn to Google. I read about how even the first dose provides a decent level of immunity and with good care we can remain infection free. I felt grateful again and managed to search for peace inside my heart and fell asleep.

The next day, news broke that the second dose will now be administered in the 12-16 week window. And yet again news media and social media were all up in arms about how unfair that was and how the people at the top had not thought this through. When it comes to politics, I don’t play favourites and find it tough to keep up with political arguments. But with the limited wisdom I have gathered through my education and work, I understand numbers. When dealing with a population like ours, one has to make tough decisions based on what will serve the maximum population. Especially if the decision is concerned with life and death. So the choice was between providing “decent immunity” to a larger population and giving the second jab to the lesser number. Mathematically it might actually mean choosing between partial population being fully inoculated versus fewer severe infections and consequently fewer deaths overall. I may not have all my facts right and my logic might be far from perfect. But, can we take a pause here? Maybe for a second, we stop thinking only about our own self and start thinking about others in our ecosystem?

We will be well when we are all well.

-Chetna Israni is the founder and Director of Morning Star BrandCom.

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