Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday appealed to citizens not to fall prey to rumours about coronavirus vaccines. India is set to begin the third phase of immunisation, covering all above 18 years, from May 1.
In his monthly radio programme “Mann ki Baat”, the prime minister asked citizens to get information about the virus only from verified sources. “You can consult your family doctor or doctors in the neighbourhood on the phone,” he said.
Modi also said the Centre was trying to help states in fighting the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. “The state governments too are trying their best to fulfill their responsibilities,” he said.
The prime minister said that Sunday’s show was entirely focused on the coronavirus pandemic because India’s top priority now was to defeat the infection. He urged all citizens to get vaccinated and take all necessary precautions.
The second wave has battered the health infrastructure in the country as cases continue to rise steadily. India has recorded over 3 lakh coronavirus cases for the fourth consecutive day. The country on Sunday reported 3,49,691 new cases in a day, taking the total number of infections to 1,69,60,172 since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. For the first time, 2,767 deaths were registered. The toll is now 1,92,311.
Amid the surge, there is an acute shortage of oxygen, beds and timely medical care across several states. Social media is filled with calls for ambulances, intensive care unit beds and medicines. Even hospitals are taking to Twitter to plead with the government to replenish their oxygen supplies and threatening to stop admissions of new patients. Several states, including Delhi, have sought help in meeting these needs.
In his address, Modi noted that the pandemic was testing everyone’s patience. “Many of our near and dear ones have left us untimely,” he said. “After successfully confronting the first wave of corona[virus], the country was full of enthusiasm, full of self-confidence, but this storm has shaken the country.”
The prime minister said that he held various meetings to tide over the situation. “People from our pharma industry, vaccine manufacturers, those connected with oxygen production, experts from the medical field have put forth their valuable suggestions to the government,” he said. “This time, for emerging victorious in this battle, we have to accord priority to expert and scientific advice.”
Modi praised the nursing staff for their continuous work during the pandemic and said that their sense of service was a “great strength to our society”. He also lauded other frontline workers, including doctors, ambulance drivers and lab technicians, for their service. Many frontline workers spoke to the prime minister during the radio programme.
So far, two vaccines – one developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca and the other developed by Bharat Biotech – are being used in India. Both the vaccines are being manufactured in the country by domestic firms. While the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine, locally known as Covishield, is being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, the indigenously developed Covaxin is being manufactured by Bharat Biotech.
A third vaccine Sputnik V – developed in Russia and to be imported and sold in India by Dr Reddy’s Laboratories – has also been approved by the Indian drug regulator.