Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said that the Centre will bear the cost of vaccinating about 3 crore healthcare and frontline workers against the coronavirus in the first phase of India’s massive inoculation drive.
Modi made the announcement after his meeting with the chief ministers of all the states to discuss the coronavirus situation in the country, and the plan for a rollout of vaccines in India. The country’s vaccination drive is set to begin on January 16.
“Our endeavour is to first deliver the vaccines to those people who are looking after the health of the citizens day and night – our health workers from both the public and private sectors,” Modi said. “Our sanitation workers, the police, paramilitary and civil defence workers will also receive the vaccine in the first phase.”
The prime minister added that people above the age of 50 and those with comorbidities will get the vaccine next. “India is aiming to vaccinate 30 crore people over the next few months,” Modi said.
Modi said India’s coronavirus vaccines are more cost-effective than any other inoculation in the world, PTI reported. He added that apart from the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech’s vaccines, which had been cleared for emergency use earlier this month, four more vaccines were in India’s pipeline.
“It will help us plan the future better,” the prime minister said. “Our experts have taken all precautions to provide the countrymen with effective vaccines.”
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Modi also said India was equipped to handle side-effects of the vaccines, if any. “We already have a mechanism under the Universal Immunization Programme for situations such as these,” he said. “We’ve strengthened it specifically for COVID vaccination.”
The prime minister added that a dry run for vaccination had been conducted in almost every district of India, which was a huge achievement. “We have to combine the new SOPs [standard operating procedures] with our old experiences,” he said.
Modi said the discussion and cooperation between states and Centre had immensely helped efforts to combat the coronavirus. “We’ve presented a good example of federalism,” he added.
He, however, advised the states to be wary of rumours about the vaccination drive. “All States and UTs must ensure that rumours around the vaccination programme are not allowed to spread,” he said. “Corporate competition and vested interests of certain lobbies within and outside country may be at work to fuel the rumours.”
The Union Health Ministry had on Saturday announced that India’s inoculation programme will begin on January 16. The announcement came Modi chaired a high-level meeting to review the coronavirus situation in the country.
To assess the preparedness at all levels before the actual rollout of the vaccine, a third dry run on January 8 covered 4,895 sites across 615 districts in 33 states and Union Territories. Experts have said that vaccinating a billion people, including hundreds of millions of adults for the first time, against Covid-19 will be a daunting task in the first tranche.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had said last week that the vaccine would be made available “in the next few days”, after prioritising risk groups.
On January 3, India had approved vaccines developed by the Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech for emergency use. The Serum Institute is the local maker of Covishield, the vaccine developed by Oxford University and pharmaceuticals company AstraZeneca. Bharat Biotech has manufactured India’s first indigenous vaccine candidate Covaxin in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Institute of Virology.
India has so far registered 1,04,66,595 coronavirus cases and 1,51,160 deaths. As of Monday morning, the country’s active cases stood at 2,22,526 and the number of recoveries reached, 1,00,92,909. Meanwhile, the number of cases of the United Kingdom mutant virus strain rose to 96.