Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday kicked off the "world's largest" vaccination campaign on Saturday as India will inoculate 3 lakh healthcare and frontline workers against Covid-19 on the first day.
Modi, in a televised address before the vaccine rollout, said there are several nations whose entire population is less than 3 crores, but India will be vaccinating as many people in just the first phase, as he saluted scientists for developing the vaccines in such a short span of time.
India has approved two vaccines – Covishield, the Oxford-AstranZeneca vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute, and Covaxin, developed by Bharat Biotech and ICMR – for emergency use. He said the both vaccines being made in India was yet another example of how the country was moving forward on the path of self-reliance.
He stressed upon the importance of taking both doses of the vaccine. “I would like to remind you again that it is very important to have two doses of corona vaccine. Between the first and second doses, a gap of about one month will be kept. Only 2 weeks after the second dose, your body will develop the necessary strength against the virus,” Modi said.
The Prime Minister said the vaccines approved by the government were much cheaper than alternatives being used in the west, referring to the shots developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. He said those vaccines would cost around Rs 5,000 to vaccinate a person and would need to be stored at temperatures around -70 degree Celsius, making the logistics tougher.
“Indian vaccines are cheapest and the best in the world,” he said, adding that the administration was also much simpler as they can be stored easily.
He urged people not to fall prey to rumours and myths regarding the vaccines. "The DGCI gave approval after they were satisfied with the data of the two vaccines. So stay away from rumours. Our vaccine developers have a global credibility. Life-saving vaccines given to 60% children globally are made in India," he said.
Modi reiterated that India will initially prioritise nurses, doctors and others on the front line for vaccination. On the first day, around 100 people will be voluntarily vaccinated in each of the 3,006 centres in the country, the government said this week, calling it the start of the biggest such campaign in the world.
Beneficiaries, however, will not be able to choose between the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine and a government-backed, homegrown one from Bharat Biotech whose efficacy is not known. Both are being produced locally.