Launching India’s vaccine drive by addressing health workers in different cities, Modi became emoti-onal, recalling healthcare personnel who succumbed to the virus, never to ret-urn home, pausing before he continued. He also congratulated scientists for coming up with vaccines in record time, saying India’s fight against Covid reflected its resolve, self-confidence and self-sufficiency (atma vishwas aur atma nirbharta).
As he has before, the PM urged people not to succumb to propaganda, saying the vaccines approved for use in India are safe and that the government has taken decisions based on the advice tendered by scientists. He flagged the programme with a click of a button followed by a video message playing the Sanskrit chant —sarve bhavantu sukhinah, sarve santu niramaya — (All be happy, All be free of illness).
Reiterating his confidence in the two locally-manufactured vaccines – Covishield (developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca) and Covaxin (by Bharat Biotech) – rolled out for the programme, the Prime Minister said the jabs were developed on a technology platform that is “tried and tested”, cost-effective, easy to use and adaptable to Indian conditions. He said the vaccines are not costly and said some being used in other nations were priced at Rs 5,000 a shot and needed storage temperatures of minus 70 centigrade.
“These vaccines will give India a decisive victory in the fight against Covid-19,” the PM said, adding that India’s vaccination drive is based on principles of humanity and that those who needed the vaccine the most would get it first.
“Those who are most at risk will get it first — doctors, nurses, hospital sanitation workers, paramedics — they deserve it most on priority,” Modi said, as India began the exercise of vaccinating 30 million healthcare and frontline workers.
With moist eyes and a lump in his throat, PM Modi remembered the difficult times of 2020 when families were torn apart due the pandemic, and when they could not even offer ritualistic send-offs to the departed.
Acknowledging the struggle and contribution of health and frontline workers in fighting the unprecedented challenge thrown by the pandemic, he said these corona warriors gave all to their duty and left their children and families behind to save lives of other people. “Many such people could not return home,” he said, underlining that administering of the vaccine to healthcare workers first is also a mark of respect towards such people from the society.
The Prime Minister also cautioned people to ensure that they take both the doses at one month’s gap and urged to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour even after vaccination. “Dawaai bhi, kadaai bhi,” he said.
“Don’t make the mistake of taking one dose and then forgetting about dose two and don’t forget coronavirus appropriate behaviour after getting the dose. The patience with which you fought coronavirus, show the same patience during vaccination now,” Modi said.
On the first day, Covid-19 vaccine was administered to healthcare workers in 3,352 session sites covering all states and UTs across the country. Health minister Harsh Vardhan also reviewed the day’s activities with health ministers of states and UTs on Saturday evening.
The PM said the vaccination drive would go on for long and other countries will benefit from India’s experiences given the size and scale of the exercise. Cautioning people against falling for rumours or propaganda, he said India had a great track record in vaccine production and 60% children of the world get vaccines made in India.