(Eds: Adds reactions, details) Madurai (TN), Jan 16 (PTI) Tamil Nadu on Saturday rolled out the COVID-19 vaccination drive at 166 sites across the state with a government doctor here becoming the first to be administered the shot.
Chief Minister K Palaniswami said everyone, including him should get vaccinated, but priority, however, was only for frontline workers such as the doctors and health workers.
Praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the Covishield and Covaxin vaccines, he said today is a 'historic' day and lauded the PM for the nation-wide launch.
'We had a dry run in 226 locations. Now the vaccination drive is launched in 166 sites in Tamil Nadu,' the Chief Minister said.
Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan said 2,368 people, including doctors and health workers, have been vaccinated (till 3.30.pm) in Tamil Nadu with both Covishield and Covaxin vaccines.
Tamil Nadu Government Doctors Association (TNGDA) president Dr K Senthil was the first to be administered the vaccine in the state at the Government Rajaji Hospital (GRH) premises here in the presence of Palaniswami, his Cabinet colleagues and senior officials.
A government staff nurse and a woman sanitary worker were next to be vaccinated.
Prof Dr Senthil, who was part of the team that treated coronavirus patients at the GRH said, 'We saw agony, pain and many deaths due to coronavirus.
We have been waiting for the vaccine for the past 10 months and it arrived sooner than we expected and we thank the State and Central governments for it. For me, this is both an opportunity and a luck to get the vaccine.' He said he felt mild pain when he got the injection, adding that the the virus could be driven out of Tamil Nadu with mass vaccination.
Vice Chancellor of government run Tamil Nadu Dr MGR Medical University, Dr Sudha Seshayyan, Dean of Madras Medical College and Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital Dr E Theranirajan, Dean, Government Omandurar Medical College and Hospital,Chennai,Dr R Jayanthi were administered the vaccines.
Deans of other government medical college hospitals were among those to get the shots in Tamil Nadu.
Dr Jayanthi, many hours after the vaccination said she was normal. 'I am okay and normal,' she said.
Before the vaccination, the identity of beneficiaries were checked and they were observed for 30 minutes following vaccination at the observation room. Their data was uploaded in a government mobile application.
Chairman, Apollo Hospitals Group, Dr Prathap C Reddy, Director, MGM Healthcare, Dr Prashanth Rajagopalan, chairman, Dr Agarwal's group of eye hospitals, Prof Amar Agarwal, noted gynecologist Dr Kamala Selvaraj were among those who received the vaccine shots in Tamil Nadu.
Mostly Covishield vaccines were used in Tamil Nadu on the first day of the exercise.
The government had said on Friday that eminent doctors would get the vaccine shots and steer the vaccination drive in the state.
Palaniswami, after presiding over the launch of the vaccination drive here said, 'everyone should for sure get vaccinated. You and I have to get vaccinated. Those from your and my family too should get the vaccinated.' The vaccination is aimed at protecting everyone in the country, he told reporters here, adding priority was, however, would be given to doctors, health workers and others at a higher risk of contracting the coronavirus, he said.
On apprehensions about the vaccine and steps to allay fears, Palaniswami said: 'During the initial stages it could be there and will fade later. Who is the first to take vaccine? It is Dr Senthil, president of the TNGDA.' Also, a host of doctors, nurses and other health workers came forward and got vaccinated, he said adding the fact that medical doctors were now getting vaccinated would help allay apprehensions.
The vaccination session sites in Tamil Nadu were decked with banners and flowers announcing the vaccine roll-out.
The first people to get vaccinated were presented a bouquet in several, places including Vellore.
Palaniswami said the government had in total received 5,56,500 doses of the vaccine for the first phase of vaccination. It includes 5,36,500 Covishield doses and 20,000 doses of Covaxin, he said.
Dr Prathap C Reddy, who was the first to receive the dose in Apollo hospital's vaccine drive said,'the vaccine marks the turning of the tide in the fight against the novel coronavirus that brought the world to its knees for almost a year.' Lauding the government for its 'bold steps and fast tracking the vaccine approval,' he said 'for India, this is a landmark moment as the vaccines are being manufactured in the country...a proud moment and a milestone in our efforts to become self-reliant or Atmanirbhar in healthcare.' Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam and Ministers, including Health Minister C Vijayabaskar and Revenue Minister R B Udhaya Kumar, took part in the vaccine roll-out event here in southern Tamil Nadu. PTI VGN VS APR ADMINISTRATOR APR ADMINISTRATOR