AP PHOTOS: Vaccinated Indian nurse hopes worst is over

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UKHRUL, India (AP) – As far back as Shimray Wungreichon can remember, many residents of her mountain town had little respect for the work she did.

“The job of a nurse is said to be noble, but in our part of the world it is interpreted differently,” said Wungreichon, a nurse in Ukhrul, a remote town in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur. “We are considered a profession of service.”

The coronavirus pandemic has changed that.

Wungreichon was among the first of many Indian health workers to be vaccinated on Saturday, opening a new chapter in the battle against the pandemic in the second hardest-hit country in the world, which has been deeply scarred by a virus that has killed more of 152,000 people. his people.

“I’m very positive about this,” said Wungreichon, a 14-year-old nurse who described getting the vaccine as “normal routine” for her.

The 43-year-old city has escaped the worst of the pandemic, which has ravaged most of the country. But like so many health workers battling the virus at the forefront, her life has also been turned upside down.

For the first three months, she was unable to kiss her three children, fearing that she could pass the virus on to them. Her elderly parents were expected to spend the whole of 2020 living with her, but living with a nurse was too risky, so they returned to their remote home village. And her anxiety increased with every coronavirus test she took.

For a while, she even fell into depression and barely slept.

“This kind of collective fear has never been seen before. No one wants to die, ”Wungreichon said while working in the emergency department at Ukhrul District Hospital, the only government-run medical facility with a population of 180,000. “People have realized that their life is precious.”

Indian authorities hope to give vaccines to 300 million people, roughly the population of the United States and several times more than its existing immunization program that targets 26 million infants. Beneficiaries include 30 million doctors, nurses and other frontline workers, followed by 270 million other people over the age of 50 or with diseases that make them vulnerable to COVID-19.

Health officials have not specified what percentage of India’s roughly 1.4 billion people will be targeted by the campaign. But experts say it will almost certainly be the largest such project in the world.

Reluctance to vaccinate, however, is a major concern. But Wungreichon is ready.

“As a health worker, this is a time when the world wants us to take action,” she said.

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