People watch the live telecast of Prime Minister Narendra Modi launching the COVID -19 vaccination drive in Varanasi, January 16, 2021. Photo: PTI
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday launched India’s COVID-19 vaccination drive, saying that the programme is driven by “humanitarian concerns” as those exposed to maximum risk will be given priority.
Addressing the nation ahead of the launch, Modi reminded people that two doses are required for inoculation and said people should continue wearing masks and maintaining social distancing even after receiving the jabs.
“Normally, it takes years to make a vaccine but in such a short span of time, not one, but two ‘Made in India’ vaccines are ready,” Modi said, adding work on other vaccines is also progressing at a fast pace.
That the vaccines have been delivered in such a short time is a testimony to the talent and skills of the nation’s scientists, the prime minister said.
Modi said that scientists and experts have given permission for emergency use of the made-in-India vaccines only after being absolutely sure of their safety. The statement comes amidst concerns expressed by experts and watchdogs about Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin being rolled out before phase 3 clinical trials.
The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) had earlier this month approved Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine Covishield, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, and Covaxin of Bharat Biotech for ‘restricted’ emergency use in the country, paving the way for a massive inoculation drive.
According to the government, the shots will be offered first to an estimated one crore healthcare workers, and around two crore frontline workers. Persons above 50 years of age and those younger than 50 years of age with associated comorbidities, will then follow.
Modi will not immediately take the vaccine himself.
The Centre will cover the cost of vaccination for healthcare and frontline workers.
(With agency inputs)