A heart patient for the last 13 years, 69-year-old Rishipal who has undergone 2 bypass surgeries in the past was recently admitted at the Delhi government-run Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital again due to heart-related issues. The last year has been tough for him due to the coronavirus pandemic but the news of vaccinations for general public beginning March has brought a ray of hope for many like him.
"Everybody used to say that this disease mostly catches those who are in the senior age group. So I barely used to go out of my house for not only my sake but also for my family members. I will get vaccinated now. This will ensure that me and my family members both are fully safe," Mr Rishipal said.
Preparations are on at hospitals as the second phase of the coronavirus vaccination drive in the country will begin March 1, with priority given to people over 60 and those over 45 with co-morbidities. The daily targets are about to double up as second doses of healthcare and frontline workers will go on simultaneously.
A few beds away from Mr Rishipal, in the cardiac ward, is 47-year-old Mohammad Akbar Ansari. He suffered a heart attack four years ago but never recovered fully and has had to make frequent hospital visits. Mr Ansari said: "I have a wife and three daughters back home. As a heart patient, the pandemic was scary. Not just for me but even my family members had to be extra cautious and stay at home as much as possible. I want to get vaccinated at the earliest so that we all can live our lives a little more easily."
Doctors said they are being flooded with queries after the government announced the second phase of vaccination.
Nodal Officer for COVID-19 at Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital in Delhi, Dr Ajeet Jain, said: "We will turn the selfie area for vaccinated beneficiaries into an observation area now and increase seating for 25 people. There is another hall which will be used to create additional seating of 50 people. We are aiming to increase the capacity to 220 vaccinations per day comfortably, without compromising on quality. Currently, we vaccinate about 120 people daily."
He said people with comorbidities had been anxious and eager from the very beginning and once they heard that the rollout is set to begin, "they have been ringing me to ask if they can come to the hospital to get vaccinated. Especially people with cardiac diseases, cancer and chronic respiratory disorders."
"I have been telling them that soon they will be able to download the mobile application (CoWin app) and if they are not tech-savvy they can come to the hospital and we will help them with registration," Dr Jain said.
At Chandigarh's premier medical Institute PGI, preparations are on to increase the rate of vaccination ahead of the second phase.
Director of PGI Chandigarh Jagat Ram said: "Senior citizens have shown a lot of eagerness for vaccination. Even much before the government announcement, senior citizens had been enquiring about it. We are fully prepared. Our institute is capable of four vaccination sites within the premises. At present, only two are being used for healthcare and frontline workers but all four sites will be made functional when the vaccination for general population begins."
A property agent and social worker in Chandigarh, Yogender Kwatra, 68, wants to get vaccinated soon as his work involves daily public interactions but he also raised concerns over the side-effects of the vaccines.
"My profession is such that I am constantly worried about getting infected. I had been waiting for the vaccine so that we could protect ourselves against coronavirus. But I am also in a dilemma about which of the two vaccines I should take? Also, the Prime Minister and other VIPs and ministers have not been vaccinated yet. What if I get vaccinated and there are side-effects?" he questioned.
From March 1, vaccine shots will be given at 10,000 government-run centres (where it will be free of cost) and 20,000 private centres. Charges for vaccination at privately-run centres will be confirmed in a few days. Around 27 crore people are expected to be covered in the second phase. Of this group, around 10 crore are people over 60, the government said.