Dear Govt, I’ve Got the Jab: Now Give Me My Vaccine Passport!

After the second jab, give us a vaccine passport – we don’t just want to be safe, we also want to feel normal again.

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Video Producer: Shohini Bose
Video Editor: Vivek Gupta
Cameraperson: Shiv Kumar Maurya

I got the jab last week! I still can’t believe it. Frankly, I had begun to lose hope, despite India beginning vaccinations on 16 January 2021. Because, unfortunately, our almighty state had monopolised the whole show.

It decided where, who, when, and how each frontline worker would be inoculated. Bizarrely, it banned private health facilities from administering doses even to their own threatened workers, who had to tread to a state facility for the jab.

For 45 days, our vaccination programme crawled at a snail’s pace, averaging 350,000 doses per day. At that rate, it would have taken five years to administer 600 million shots to 300 million vulnerable citizens. Worse, millions of vials could have expired.

Sudden, Spectacular U-Turn in Rules

I was about to slide back into hopelessness… when suddenly, the state threw in the towel in a spectacular u-turn (surrender?). Within 48 hours, our rules changed from a stern “no, you can’t” to how anybody in the vulnerable cohort could get inoculated anywhere using any photo ID – no restrictions, no bureaucratic ifs and buts, just a compelling nudge to “go, get it.”

The price was capped at an eye watering Rs 250 per dose, triggering tears of gratitude from beneficiaries and anger among manufacturers.

Social media channels began to fill up with people talking about how they just walked in and got inoculated – no fuss, no paperwork, no backchannel sifarish (pulling strings), just, “hello antibodies, are you feeling good?”

A Hassle-Free COVID Vaccine Jab

So, now, even my mind was made up. Vaccination day dawned crisp and fresh. I had had a jumpy night, in anticipation of the vaccination. I needn’t have. Everything went off without a hitch (confession – like several privileged “south Delhi types,” we had sent an outrider to recce and smoothen the process out for us).

We collected our token numbers and were ushered into a waiting room, where a dozen other applicants were seated. The nurse called us in, one by one, checking our temperatures, oxygen levels, and blood pressures. Everything was in order.

Next, we were called into the “jab room,” where a cheerful lady asked for our Aadhaar IDs (third such requisition that morning!), punched more stuff into her computer, and released us for the actual prick.

“Take a deep breath, sir,” the administering nurse said, and charmingly plunged the needle into my left bicep. No ma’am, I did not wince a bit.

From there we were taken to another desk, where the Aadhaar was needed one more time. That nurse told us to take a 500 mg Crocin tablet in case “you feel breathless, nauseas, feverish, or have loose motions.” 

Finally, we waited for half an hour in a tiny room along with another half-a-dozen patients. An SMS pinged, certifying one inoculation, but the other two never came (another glitch, but again, we eventually got the missing certificates from the hospital). Later that night, I had some fever and body-ache, but within 48 hours, I was as good as new.

Existential Questions as I Wait for My Second Jab

Now, as I wait four weeks for my second jab, I am asking an existential question that 25 million (and rapidly counting) Indians, and a few hundred million people across the globe will be echoing in a few days: “So, now that we have got the antibodies, can we get back to normal, please?”

After we’ve got the second jab, give us a vaccine passport and allow us to travel, mingle, play, gym, swim, get physio treatment... whatever. Yes, we promise to follow the safety protocols.

Because we don’t just want to be safe. We also want to feel normal, the way we were.

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