Prime Minister Narendra Modi lightened the mood and cracked a few jokes with the nurses who administered the first dose of a homegrown coronavirus vaccine, Covaxin, to him on Monday to put them at ease.
Sources said the PM, realising that the AIIMS staff could be nervous around him, struck a conversation with them before he was given the shot, and also joked with them.
“Are you going to use a needle meant for veterinary purposes?” he reportedly asked the two nurses. The nurses apparently did not understand the question but said “no”.
The PM then explained that politicians are known to be “very thick-skinned”, and hence, he was asking if they planned to use some special thick needles for him. On hearing this, the nurses laughed.
P Niveda, the main nurse, told reporters that PM Modi chatted with them and remarked after receiving the vaccine: “Laga bhi diya aur pata bhi nahin chala (Already done? I didn’t even feel it).”
She said she learnt this morning that PM Modi was coming to receive the vaccine dose. “I am posted at the vaccine centre. I was called. We found out PM sir is coming today. It was great to meet PM sir,” she said.
Modi was inoculated with the first dose Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and images were shared live amid vaccine hesitancy that has slowed down the immunisations in the country.
The government has on Monday kicked off an expansion of the immunisation campaign against Covid-19, to include people aged over 60 and those over 45 with co-morbidities.
India has so far vaccinated 12 million health and front-line workers since starting its immunisation programme in mid-January. It wants to cover 300 million of its 1.35 billion people by August. “I appeal to all those who are eligible to take the vaccine,” 70-year-old Modi said on Twitter, posting a picture of him getting the shot at a government hospital in New Delhi. “Together, let us make India COVID-19 free!”
The government said last week it would let people choose their vaccination centres, effectively letting beneficiaries pick either the home-grown COVAXIN shot or the AstraZeneca vaccine, unlike earlier.