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Modi Leads the Rest, Launch Second Phase of Vaccination

Modi Leads the Rest, Launch Second Phase of Vaccination

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Mar 1: India kicked off the second phase of Covid-19 vaccination with the prime minister Narendra Modi personally leading the rest of the senior citizens and the people above 45 with co-morbidities to get inoculated against the Covid pandemic.

As the second phase of vaccination started on Monday, Modi travelled to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences early in the morning to become the first senior citizen to take the jab. He was later followed by the vice-president Venkaiah Naidu, the Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and the Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik to get inoculated on the first day of the second phase of the drive. According to a tweet by the vice president’s secretariat, Naidu was vaccinated at the Government Medical College in Chennai.

The government later announced that the Supreme Court judges would start getting vaccinated from Tuesday at the government health centre in the apex court complex.

Modi chose fully indigenous vaccine Covaxin developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech along with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, to send across a message to the country that the made in India vaccine was safe and effective.

Tweeting a picture of himself getting a shot, Modi said: “Took my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at AIIMS. Remarkable how our doctors and scientists have worked in quick time to strengthen the global fight against COVID-19. I appeal to all those who are eligible to take the vaccine. Together, let us make India COVID-19 free!”
It was learnt that the nurse who administered the vaccine jab to Modi was sister P. Niveda of Puducherry, assisted by Rosamma Ali, a nurse from Kerala. In an interesting coincidence, Kerala and Puducherry are both going to polls in April. Modi also wore an Assamese “gamcha,” another State going to polls.

At a meeting of Chief Ministers on vaccine disbursal, Prime Minister Modi had said that political leaders and legislators should allow health and frontline workers to get the jab first as they need protection. He had said that most political leaders would get their turn when senior citizens aged above 50 would be allowed to get the jab.

The Health Ministry on Monday clarified that Supreme Court judges will not be allowed to choose the COVID vaccine for inoculation, and that the process will be done entirely through the Co-Win System.

“Government Facility (CGHS Dispensary) within the Supreme Court to be used,’’ said the Ministry.

The clarification was issued after reports that sitting and retired Supreme Court judges will get Covid-19 vaccine shots from Tuesday and that they can choose between Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and Serum Institute of India’s Covishield as their first shot.

Soon after Modi took the vaccine, the union health minister Harsh Vardhan said the Prime Minister has given a clear message to the nation by taking the first dose Covaxin adding that all misinformation has been buried now.

“I have been saying from beginning that both our vaccines are safe and perfect as far as immunogenicity is concerned. We are thankful to the Prime Minister. He has always told us that you have to lead by example. He took the jab first of all, when vaccination of people above 60 years has begun,” Vardhan told the media.

“PM Modi took Covaxin, against which a lot of misinformation was spread even when it was scientifically perfect. I think PM has given a clear message to the country. All misinformation and hesitancy should be buried once and for all,” he added.

Vardhan said he would do the booking of the vaccine today and plans to get vaccinated tomorrow.

Vardhan also appealed to all citizens who are above 60 years of age, those above 45 years with comorbidities, all MPs-MLAs to get vaccinated. “This would send a message to people that they should get vaccinated at the earliest,” he added.

The government had announced on Wednesday last that everyone above 60 years of age and those aged 45 and above with comorbidities will be able to get Co-19 vaccine from March 1 for free at government facilities and for a charge at many private hospitals.

Citizens will be able to register and book an appointment for vaccination, anytime and anywhere, using the Co-WIN 2.0 portalor through other applications such as Aarogya Setu.

There is also a walk-in provision for the beneficiaries to get themselves registered at the nearby session site to get vaccinated.

Encouraged by the prime minister choosing its vaccine, the Bharat Biotech said it was ‘inspired and humbled’ by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s commitment towards Aatmanirbhar Bharat or self-reliant India. “Inspired and humbled by Hon’ble PM’s remarkable commitment to build an Aatmanirbhar Bharat. Yes, we all shall fight #COVID-19 together and emerge victorious,” the company posted on Twitter as it tagged the Prime Minister’s tweet.

Bharat Biotech has said efficacy data from a late-stage trial on nearly 26,000 volunteers who took Covaxin will be out soon. The company and Drugs Controller General of India have said Covaxin is safe and effective, based on early and intermediate studies.

The first phase of vaccination in the country had started on January 16 when the frontline workers were covered. India, which has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the world after the United States, has so far vaccinated more than 12 million health and frontline workers.

India’s  tally of Corona cases went up to over 11.11 million with 15,510 new infections and 106 related deaths in the last 24 hours, according to the Union ministry of health and family welfare on Monday morning.

AIIMS chief Dr Randeep Guleria also said the prime minister himself leading the rest in taking the vaccine should eliminate any hesitancy from the minds of people about the vaccine.

“PM Modi took Made in India, Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin vaccine and showed that both vaccines are safe and efficacious. We must come forward and take whichever vaccine is available. There’s been controversy comparing one vaccine to other, that has also been laid to rest today,” Guleria said.

“PM took Covid-19 vaccine and showed that we must do the same when turn comes. It will go long way in getting over vaccine hesitancy. All over 60 years of age and those above 45 years with comorbidities must take vaccine. It’s the only way to come out of pandemic,” he added.

Guleria added that Modi wanted to put the nursing officers at ease and therefore he joked, talked to them in local language and enquired where they were from. “It really helped because nurses were not aware of whom they would be vaccinating,” he said.

“This (PM receiving Covid vaccine jab) will be a big game-changer. I am sure a large number of people will come and take the vaccine. We have opened many sites to accommodate people, both in govt and private sector. In AIIMS, five sites have been opened,” Guleria added.

Private hospitals are also taking part in phase 2 of the vaccination drive. While vaccines will be administered for free in government hospitals, ₹250 will be charged in a private hospital.

Besides Covaxin, Oxford University-AstraZeneca’s Covishield has been given emergency use authorisation (EUA) in India. Both the vaccines were cleared by the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) in January. A third vaccine, Russian Sputnik V is also likely to be cleared for the vaccination drive in India by the DCGI soon.

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