Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday congratulated the country on achieving the milestone of administering over 100 crore Covid-19 vaccine doses since the beginning of its inoculation drive in January.
In his address to the nation, Modi said that when coronavirus hit the country, questions were raised about whether India would be able to fight the pandemic and how it would vaccinate such a huge population. He said that India’s milestone answered all those questions.
“Taking everyone along, the country started the campaign of vaccine for everyone,” the prime minister said. “India has only one mantra that if the disease does not discriminate, then there cannot be partiality in vaccination either. We ensured that the VIP culture did not dominate the vaccination campaign.”
Modi said that India had achieved an extraordinary target. “The achievement is the image of a new India, the beginning of a new chapter in history,” the prime minister said.
So far, only around 31% of adults have been fully vaccinated, and approximately 76% have received the first dose. The Centre had earlier promised that 75% of India’s adult population would be fully vaccinated by the end of the year.
The prime minister said that the world will now consider India as more safe from the coronavirus pandemic. “The whole world is witnessing the power of India,” he added.
Modi described India’s inoculation programme as “science-born and science-driven”.
However, the prime minister urged Indians not to let their guard down. “We cannot lay down our weapons while the war [against Covid-19] is going on,” Modi said. “I urge you to celebrate festivals with utmost care.”
On Thursday, Modi had thanked all the health workers who helped the country achieve the feat. “India scripts history,” the prime minister had said. “We are witnessing the triumph of Indian science, enterprise and collective spirit of 130 crore Indians.”
Celebrations had erupted across the country on Thursday. A hundred monuments were lit in the colours of the national flag to mark the vaccine milestone.
Meanwhile, India recorded 15,786 new coronavirus cases on Friday morning, taking its overall tally to 3,41,43,236 since the pandemic began in January last year. The number of new cases was 14% lower than Thursday’s count of 18,454.
The country’s toll rose to 4,53,042 as it registered 231 deaths in the last 24 hours.
Modi shared wrong data: Congress
Congress spokesperson Gourav Vallabh on Friday said that Modi, in his speech, cited “semi-baked” data on coronavirus vaccination in India, PTI reported. He said that India’s claim of being the first country to have administered more than 100 crore doses of the vaccine is false.
Vallabh said that China had administered 216 crore doses by September. He claimed that the country had fully vaccinated 80% of its population, whereas India has administered two doses to only 20% of its citizens.
Data from the government’s CoWIN platform showed that over 29.85 crore people in India have received both doses of the vaccine, which amounts to nearly 23% of India’s 130 crore population.
“We would like to ask the prime minister that it would have been nice if he had shared when we are going to start vaccinations for our school-going and college-going students,” Vallabh said on Friday. “It would have been good if the PM answered when his promise of the entire population would be fulfilled by December 31, 2021.”
On Thursday, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor had said the government had “partly redeemed” itself after severely mismanaging the second wave of Covid-19. “This is a matter of pride for all Indians. Let’s give the government credit.”
However, he said that the Centre was accountable for its previous failures.
Between April and May, several states witnessed a surge of Covid-19 infections. Reports flooded the media of patients running in search of hospital beds and oxygen cylinders as several hospitals reported shortages. Some hospitals in Delhi even approached the courts for help as their oxygen supplies ran out.
Tharoor’s colleague Pawan Khera pointed out that many families were still suffering because of “Covid mismanagement”.
“Giving credit to government is an insult to millions of families who suffered and are still suffering from the after effects and side effects of widespread Covid mismanagement,” he tweeted. “Before seeking credit, PM must apologise to those families. Credit belongs to scientists and medical fraternity.”
Karnataka Congress leader Siddaramaiah noted that only 21% of India’s population has been fully vaccinated, as compared to 56% of the population in the United States, 70% in China and 71% in Canada.
He said that there may be a need for booster doses as well, and questioned whether the country can even think of administering them at present. “Mr Narendra Modi, let us raise the bar before celebrating,” he remarked.