Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday criticised the politics involving coronavirus vaccines and tried to assuage doubts about them, saying that scientists took the final call on their launch. The prime minister made the remarks during a virtual interaction with the beneficiaries of the vaccine and health workers in Uttar Pradesh’s Varanasi city.
“The development of any vaccine involves hard work of scientists, and there’s an entire scientific process for it,” the prime minister said. “Politicians talk about this and that but I gave only one reply that I will do what the scientists say, this is not the job of us politicians to decide.”
Modi said the government decided to go forward with the launch of the vaccines after the “go-ahead” from the scientists. “Then we decided to start from health workers who remain in contact with patients constantly,” the prime minister said. “Some people are angry with my decision.”
The prime minister also said that when healthcare workers give approval to a vaccine, it sends a “strong message” on its efficacy. “When doctors and health workers give a clean chit to the vaccine, it sends a very strong message among people about the efficacy of the shots,” the prime minister said.
Modi called the coronavirus vaccine an unknown enemy that scientists, who he called “modern rishis”, chased in labs by working day and night. “Our own made-in-India vaccine is reaching every corner of the country,” he added, according to PTI. “India has not only become ‘atmanirbhar [self-reliance]’ in the field of vaccines but is also helping other countries.”
The prime minister held discussions with healthcare workers who spoke about their experiences during the vaccination programme. Modi suggested that there should be a competition among hospitals and other institutes on vaccinating frontline workers so that the next phase can begin soon.
The Centre on Tuesday had expressed concern about “vaccine hesitancy” among healthcare workers, with NITI Aayog Member (Health) VK Paul saying that doctors, nurses and other frontline workers should fulfil their “social responsibility” by getting inoculated.
The NITI Aayog official also said the concerns pertaining to the coronavirus vaccines having “adverse effects and serious problems seem to be unfounded and insignificant”. He reasserted that the two vaccines, Serum Institute’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, are safe.
India’s vaccination programme
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 the virus.
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.
Meanwhile, Bharat Biotech, the makers of Covaxin, on Monday advised people not to take the coronavirus vaccine if they have allergies, fever or bleeding disorder or are on blood thinners. In a fact sheet about the process involved and who should avoid taking the vaccine, the Hyderabad-based pharmaceutical firm added pregnant and breastfeeding women to the list of people who should avoid taking Covaxin shots.