Sanitation worker Manish Kumar became the first person in India to be vaccinated against COVID-19 on Saturday, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the country’s giant vaccination drive, paying tribute to frontline workers and scientists and warned citizens against falling for propaganda or rumours over vaccines.
Mr Kumar received his shot at Delhi’s premier All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), just one of 3,006 vaccination centres established around the country. On the first day of the immunisation campaign, the government said it aimed to vaccinate over 3 lakh people. By the end of the day 1.65 lakh had been inoculated, it said.
“Many of them (staff) were scared. So, I went to my seniors and said I should be given the vaccine first. I wanted to prove to my colleagues that there is no need to be scared. My wife even asked me not to take the vaccine. I told her it is just an injection. After taking the dose, I asked my mother to tell my wife that I am safe,” Mr Kumar said.
Giving India a new motto – “Dawai bhi, Kadai bhi (yes to Vaccine, yes to discipline)” – PM Modi also cautioned that even after vaccination, citizens must stay vigilant and maintain all precautions against the virus, including masks and distancing.
India’s drive is one of the world’s biggest vaccination programmes, aimed at inoculating 3 crore health and other frontline workers to start with. Two shots manufactured in India, the Covishield developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, and Covaxin produced by Bharat Biotech, are being used. The drive was remote launched by the Prime Minister with the chanting of a Sanskrit shloka that meant ”let all be happy, let all be healthy”,
“I want to remind people of the country that two doses of the Corona vaccine are very important. Don’t commit the mistake that you take one dose and forget the second one. As experts have been saying, there will be a gap of about one month between the two doses,” PM Modi said.
The Prime Minister stressed that people should not fall for propaganda over vaccines, amid controversy over Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, which has been cleared for emergency use while still in clinical trial.
“Our scientists and experts were assured about the safety and efficacy of the two Made-in-India vaccines, only then did they allow the emergency use authorization. So stay away from propaganda, rumours, or misinformation,” PM Modi said.
“Our vaccine developers have global credibility. Every Indian will be proud that life-saving vaccines given to 60 per cent children globally are made in India.”
PM Modi said Indian vaccines were cheaper compared to the other global vaccines, which required stringent conditions for storage.
“India’s vaccines are developed keeping in mind our country. From storage to transportation, these vaccines are made for Indian conditions. They will give decisive victory to our country,” he said.
Looking back at the time when the pandemic broke out early last year, PM Modi spoke of heart-wrenching moments when many could not even perform last rites for their loved ones and virus-infected people were isolated or separated from their families.