Prime Minister Narendra Modi will receive the coronavirus vaccine in the second phase of India’s inoculation drive, the Hindustan Times reported, quoting unidentified government officials. The 70-year-old Bharatiya Janata Party leader is likely to get the first jab in March or April.
“The prime minister will take the vaccine when his turn will come after completion of the first phase,” an official in the Prime Minister’s Office told the Hindustan Times. “He himself said this in his meeting with chief ministers that politicians shouldn’t try to break the queue and only take the vaccine when their turn comes.”
The official was referring to a meeting held between Modi and chief ministers, where the prime minister rejected suggestions of including politicians in the first phase of vaccination that began on January 16. However, it was not clear whether Modi would have to register on the Covid Vaccine Intelligence Network (CoWIN) app, which is being used to monitor the vaccination drive.
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India, which has reported the highest number of coronavirus infections after the United States, plans to vaccinate around 30 crore people with two doses in the first six to eight months of the year. The recipients include 3 crore doctors, nurses and other front-line workers, to be followed by people who are either over 50 or have illnesses that make them vulnerable to Covid-19.
Beneficiaries, however, will not be able to choose between the Oxford University-AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine, produced by the Serum Institute of India, and Covaxin, a government-backed, indigenous one from Bharat Biotech, whose efficacy is not known.
The government has urged frontline workers not to refuse the vaccines, after almost all states failed to meet their targets in the first few days of the immunisation drive. But many people have declined to take the shots, especially the Bharat Biotech vaccine whose efficacy remains ambiguous, fearing side-effects.
This has led to the wastage of precious doses of limited vaccines in at least five states. In this regard, Modi’s decision to step forward to receive his Covid-19 immunisation may help to boost shaky public confidence in the vaccines’ safety.
Several world leaders, including United States President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris along with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received their jabs on national television in order to instill public confidence in the process.