His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited a government hospital near his official residence in Dharamsala, northern India, on Saturday morning to receive the first of two COVID-19 vaccination shots.
The 85-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader was upbeat after the injection was administered, in sharing a video message in which he encouraged more people to receive the vaccination for the greater good of society.
“According to my trusted friends, including doctors, they suggested I should take this injection. In order to prevent some serious problem, this injection is very, very helpful; very good. So those other patients also should take this injection for the greater benefit,” His Holiness observed. “This is very important, so I took that, so I want to share: more people should have the courage to take this injection.”
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate received India’s Covishield vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII) under a licensing agreement for the vaccine developed by Britain’s Oxford University and the AstraZeneca pharmaceutical company. The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is reported to have an overall average efficacy of 70.4 per cent, according to interim analyses of data from late-stage clinical trials.
India, which has a large and well-established vaccine industry, reported in January that it had already stockpiled some 80 million doses, a portion of which would be contributed to the World Health Organization-backed COVAX initiative to distribute vaccines to less prosperous countries.
The revered monk reportedly thanked the nurse who administered his injection, remarking: “You are doing a great job for humanity,” (Outlook India)
Ten members of the Dalai Lama’s personal staff who live in and work in His Holiness’s residence, also received Covishield vaccinations.
“[The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama] is grateful to the governments of India and Himachal Pradesh for facilitating the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine for His Holiness the Dalai Lama at Zonal Hospital, Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, India.” said Tseten Samdup Chhoekyapa, secretary at the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. (Central Tibetan Administration)
According to local media reports, the district health authorities had originally planned to vaccinate the Dalai Lama at his residence. “We offered to set-up a vaccination center at his palace, however, His Holiness said he would take the injection at the place where the common people were being inoculated,” said Kangra District deputy commissioner Rakesh Kumar Prajapati. “It was his decision. We were arranging to vaccinate him at his home.” (Outlook India/Hindustan Times)
The Dalai Lama’s visit to the hospital marked the first time that His Holiness has left his official residence in McLeod Ganj, where he has been in self-quarantine since the beginning of the pandemic. His previous public appearance in person was in January 2020, when he returned from a Buddhist ceremony hosted in Bodh Gaya. All of the Dalai Lama’s public engagements and appearances since then have been conducted online. Tsuglakhang, the temple adjoining his official residence, has been closed to the public since June last year.
India has reported the second-highest COVID-19 caseload in the world behind the United States. At the time of writing on 8 March, India had reported 11.2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 157,853 related deaths, with 10.9 million people reported to have recovered. Globally, total cases have exceeded 116.8 million, with 2.59 million related deaths recorded and 66.13 million recovered.*
Earlier in March, 156 Buddhist monks at Gyuto Tantric Monastery in the Sidhbari suburb of Dharamsala tested positive for COVID-19. Local media reports said the area around the monastery had been sealed off as a containment zone until further notice.**
Although vaccines are already being rolled out across India, experts have observed that reaching all of the nation’s 1.3 billion people may take months if not years. The authorities began the second phase of India’s vaccination drive last week, allowing anyone above the age of 60 and those older than 45 with medical conditions that may make them more vulnerable to the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus to receive vaccines from state and private hospitals.
** 156 Monks Test Positive for COVID-19 at Buddhist Monastery in Northern India (Buddhistdoor Global)
His Holiness the Dalai Lama Receives COVID-19 Vaccine (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
His Holiness the Dalai Lama receives first dose of COVID-19 vaccine (Central Tibetan Administration)
Dalai Lama receives Covid-19 vaccine, urges others to follow suit (Phayul)
Dalai Lama turns down offer to get vaccine jab at home, goes to dispensary (Hindustan Times)
‘You’re Doing A Great Job’: Dalai Lama To Nurse Who Gave Him Covid-19 Jab (Outlook India)