KV Network

The long-awaited jab

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K S S Pillai
No one would forget the year 2020 in a hurry. The spread of a deadly virus had compelled people the world over to remain locked up at home for days together. Several people lost their employment, forcing them to seek alternative means of livelihood, while many were forced to work at a fraction of what they used to earn.
Most schools and colleges are yet to function normally, and online classes have become the new normal. Tourist spots are deserted. Those who venture out have to wear masks and keep social distancing, discarding their lifelong habit of shaking hands and hugging. They are asked to wash hands frequently with soap or sanitizers.
Those who were planning to flaunt their wealth at the wedding of their children are forced to perform the ceremony with a handful of people present. Same is the case with the funerals of dear ones. Places of worship are devoid of the usual crowd and festivals are being celebrated with token presence. Many other restrictions are in place, making life unpalatable. The pandemic has snuffed out millions of lives. The affluent nations, where people do not like state interference in their personal life, are the worst sufferers.
It is a matter of relief that the dawn of the new year has marked the beginning of the end of the nightmare in many countries, including India. Scientists in several countries have successfully developed vaccines against the virus, and people are being inoculated.
Our country has also produced more than one vaccine, and the vaccination of the frontline workers has already started at a fast rate, free of cost. Other sections of the society are also to get vaccinated in a phased manner. There is a mad rush for the vaccine from numerous countries, and we have started exporting it to them, even free of cost to some.
There is, however, no dearth of politicians doubting the efficacy of the indigenous vaccines. The manufacturers of the vaccines and various approving agencies have gone to great lengths to assure that the vaccines have undergone all mandatory tests, and that they are perfectly safe.
They have also warned some sections of the populace against its use, but the doubting Toms fear the vaccines have been given clearance in a hurry, they contain ingredients that are taboo to some religions, and they even make the recipient impotent! One former chief minister has gone to the extent of declaring that he would not get vaccinated as it was being given by a particular political party.
Some have even challenged our leaders to emulate their counterparts in some other countries by getting vaccinated first. As if to accept the challenge, it is reported that the Prime Minister and other politicians above the age of fifty would get vaccinated during the second phase of the vaccination drive.
The pandemic reminds me of the dread caused years ago by smallpox. During my childhood, I have seen people with ugly pockmarks on their faces. They were the ones who had suffered from the disease but were lucky to escape death.
I had also heard stories of patients abandoned to die, far away from their homes. Only a handful of patients could get the company of someone who was cured of the disease and become immune to the virus. No cure was in sight, and the only way to prevent it was through vaccination. Interestingly, many villagers were afraid of getting vaccinated. Parents would hide their children as soon as the news about the arrival of the vaccination team spread in a village.
The method of vaccination was a little different than what it is today. No syringe was used to inject the vaccine into the flesh. A drop of the vaccine was placed on the upper arm and then inoculated into the skin by puncturing it with a two-pronged stainless steel needle. A red and itchy lesion would develop at the vaccine site in three to four days. When healed, the spot would leave a permanent scar.
Let’s hope that the present pandemic would soon be a thing of the past.
(The author is a retired professor of English. A regular contributor to The Kashmir Vision, his articles and short stories have appeared in various national and international publications)


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