- Don't fall for propaganda over vaccines, PM Modi cautioned
- "Our vaccine developers have global credibility," he said
- PM launched India's vaccination drive, one of world's biggest
Sanitation worker Manish Kumar became the first person in India to be vaccinated against COVID-19 on Saturday, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the country's giant vaccination drive, paying tribute to frontline workers and scientists and warned citizens against falling for propaganda or rumours over vaccines.
Mr Kumar received his shot at Delhi's premier All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), just one of the over 3,000 vaccination centres established around the country. On the first day of the immunisation campaign, the government said it aimed to vaccinate over 3 lakh people. By the end of the day 1.91 lakh had been inoculated, it said.
Government sources said there was considerable hesitation among people about getting the vaccines, explaining the shortfall in numbers. Officials stressed that the drive was successful, there were no post-vaccine hospitalisations and the only glitches involved the "CoWin" software platform.
"Many of them (staff) were scared. So, I went to my seniors and said I should be given the vaccine first. I wanted to prove to my colleagues that there is no need to be scared. My wife even asked me not to take the vaccine. I told her it is just an injection. After taking the dose, I asked my mother to tell my wife that I am safe," Mr Kumar said.
Giving India a new motto - "Dawai bhi, Kadai bhi (yes to Vaccine, yes to discipline)" - PM Modi also cautioned that even after vaccination, citizens must stay vigilant and maintain all precautions against the virus, including masks and distancing.
India's drive is one of the world's biggest vaccination programmes, aimed at inoculating 3 crore health and other frontline workers to start with. Two shots manufactured in India, the Covishield developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, and Covaxin produced by Bharat Biotech, are being used. The drive was remote launched by the Prime Minister with the chanting of a Sanskrit shloka that meant ''let all be happy, let all be healthy''.
With the highest number of coronavirus infections after the United States, India plans to vaccinate around 30 crore people with two doses in the first six to eight months of the year. Frontline workers will be followed by about 27 crore people older than 50 or deemed high-risk because of pre-existing medical conditions.
"I want to remind people of the country that two doses of the Corona vaccine are very important. Don't commit the mistake that you take one dose and forget the second one. As experts have been saying, there will be a gap of about one month between the two doses," PM Modi said.
The Prime Minister stressed that people should not fall for propaganda over vaccines, amid controversy over Bharat Biotech's Covaxin, which has been cleared for emergency use while still in clinical trial.
"Our scientists and experts were assured about the safety and efficacy of the two Made-in-India vaccines, only then did they allow the emergency use authorization. So stay away from propaganda, rumours, or misinformation," PM Modi said.
Looking back at the time when the pandemic broke out early last year, PM Modi spoke of heart-wrenching moments when many could not even perform last rites for their loved ones and virus-infected people were isolated or separated from their families.
"But in times of crisis and despair, some were giving us hope. They were risking their lives to save us - doctors, nurses, paramedics, ambulance drivers, sanitation workers, police and other frontline workers - they prioritised their duty to humanity. They stayed away from their families and children, stayed away from their homes for days. Hundreds never returned home. They sacrificed their lives to save lives. So today, by vaccinating the healthcare workers first, society is repaying their debt," said the Prime Minister, in an emotional tribute.
India begins the world's #LargestVaccineDrive. This is a day of pride, a celebration of the prowess of our scientists and hardwork of our medical fraternity, nursing staff, police personnel and sanitation workers.
India begins the world's #LargestVaccineDrive. This is a day of pride, a celebration of the prowess of our scientists and hardwork of our medical fraternity, nursing staff, police personnel and sanitation workers.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) January 16, 2021
May everyone be healthy and free from illness. pic.twitter.com/AEpMMEAyzR
He termed the Indian response to the global outbreak as one of self-confidence and self-reliance.
India, PM Modi said, showed alacrity and took right decisions at the right time. "Two weeks before the first case, which was detected on January 30, 2020, India had formed a High-Level Committee. India had started proper surveillance exactly one year ago from today. On 17th January 2020, India issued its first advisory and India was among the first nations to start the screening of passengers at the airports."
The Janata curfew in March prepared the country psychologically for the lockdown, which, the PM said, was not an easy decision. "The morale of the country was kept high with campaigns like clanging thalis and lighting of diyas," he said.
He also pointed out that at a time many countries left their citizens stranded in China, India evacuated not just its own citizens but also those of other countries.