Took the vaccine to prove to hesitant friends it is safe: 75-yr-old resident | #elderly | #seniors | #execrise
Brij Mohan Vasishta, 75, was walking towards the hospital’s waiting area after taking the first dose of Covishield on March 6 when he turned around. He had forgotten to get himself clicked. He hurried back, whispered a special request in the nurse’s ear and was in the queue a minute later.
The elderly man eased himself into the chair, pulled up his sleeve, struck a fearless pose and looked into the camera as the nurse obliged by pretending to inject him. His wife, Smita, followed suit.
“Many of my elderly friends were apprehensive about taking the vaccine. I know at least four friends who registered for the vaccine immediately after seeing my photo. That’s why I did it,” said Vasishta, a retired property developer in Faridabad.
He waited just 10 minutes; the shot felt nothing more than a prick, and the 30-minute examination after the injection passed by smoothly. “If you told me during the peak of the pandemic that vaccination would be such an easy exercise, I wouldn’t have believed it,” he said.
He had read about some cases of recipients battling side effects but wasn’t concerned. “When hundreds of millions of people are getting vaccinated, a few deaths could even be of natural causes,” Vasishta said.
Having lived through the first wave of infections that ravaged the national capital region last year, Vasishta was thankful to have a way out. “I had expected it to take at least three years for the vaccine to develop,” he said.
He suffers from a host of age-related ailments such as blood pressure, diabetes and thyroid. And, he was quick to understand the threat posed by the disease that has claimed 160,000 lives in India. “Covid-19 is a death ticket”.
But Vasishta was keen to live – and hence instituted a strict protocol for his family of eight, who share a four bedroom house in Faridabad.
“For the first six months, my wife, 15-year-old grandson, and I did not step out of the house even once. Family members who left the house for essential services had to follow a strict sanitisation protocol on return. My eyes would always be on the door to see if anyone was leaving unnecessarily. The younger members of the family would be agitated by my strictness, but I was unrelenting,” said Vasishta.
The caution paid off. There were a couple of virus scares but no one in his family was infected.
As the months passed, his lifestyle turned sedentary, he put on weight, missed his social circle, and grew a French beard.
He also patiently waited for the vaccine to arrive, following the development of the shots worldwide. And when it did, some people around him questioned its safety, but Vasishta said he imposed his faith in the medical fraternity.
A few relatives dissuaded him from taking the jab early on. Vasishta heard about how the vaccine was not tested properly, it caused complications in people with co-morbidity and that it wasn’t effective in the first place.
“On March 1, when the Prime Minister got vaccinated, all my doubts were dispelled. The next day, my children booked my appointment and I turned to my hesitant elderly friends to convince them to take the vaccine,” he said.
Vasishta initially hoped to get Covaxin, the shot manufactured by Hyderabad-based firm Bharat Biotech in association with Indian Council of Medical Research.
His preference was determined by media reports that said Covaxin (81%) was marginally more effective than Covishield, the shot made by Serum Institute of India has an efficacy rate of 70-75%. “Moreover, the Prime Minister was administered Covaxin,” Vasishta said.
But on the day of his appointment on March 6, a doctor told him to avoid Covaxin because he was on blood thinners. Hours later, he was sitting in the vaccination centre, receiving Covishield.
Vasishta is now waiting for his second dose, due in four days, going by the 28-day gap rule. Until then, he isn’t letting down his guard, except for one day last week when he took the scooter for a spin in the neighbourhood. “I felt I was flying,” he said.
From April 1, India opens Covid-19 vaccination to all people above 45. Taking the shot is important, especially as the country battles its second wave of cases. The vaccination drive has been dogged by hesitancy, despite the shots being rigorously tested to be safe. In a new series, HT asks people who are eligible to take the jab, and busts misinformation surrounding the vaccines.