India’s Modi receives first dose of homegrown Covid vaccine in bid to dispel concerns over lack of data

India’s prime minister Narendra Modi on Monday took the first dose of the homegrown Covid-19 vaccine to dispel concerns over lack of efficacy data.

“Took my first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences). Remarkable how our doctors and scientists have worked in quick time to strengthen the global fight against Covid-19. I appeal to all those who are eligible to take the vaccine. Together, let us make India Covid-19 free!” tweeted Mr Modi.

India started the world’s largest coronavirus vaccination drive on 16 January with emergency approvals to two vaccines, Covishield, developed by the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca and produced in India by the Serum Institute of India (SII), and Covaxin, made by homegrown vaccine maker Bharat Biotech.

However, since the vaccination started, many people have been sceptical about Covaxin as its efficacy data has not been made public. 

India has administered about 13.7 million Covid-19 vaccines to healthcare and frontline workers till 26 February. Over 11 million cases of Covid-19 including at least 157,000 deaths have been recorded in India so far since the start of the pandemic.

The prime minister’s vaccination has now started the second phase of India’s immunisation drive under which citizens over 60 years of age and those above 45 years of age with co-morbidities will be administered the coronavirus vaccine.

On prime minister Modi expressing confidence in the Covaxin, Bharat Biotech tweeted that it is “inspired and humbled by PM’s remarkable commitment to build an aatmanirbhar (self-reliant) Bharat.”

“Yes, we all shall fight #Covid-19 together and emerge victorious,” said the company which last week announced signing of a deal with Brazil to supply 20 million doses of Covaxin.

After Mr Modi took the first dose of the vaccine, India’s health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan tweeted that Mr Modi has led by example and sent a message, especially to those who were doubting the capability of Indian scientists.

“With every jab of #COVID19Vaccine administered, we are indeed moving closer to ending this #pandemic! Urge all those eligible, to get inoculated at the earliest. #LargestVaccineDrive,” he said.

Later in the day, local Indian news media at first reported that the judges of India’s supreme court will get a choice between the two vaccines but redacted in a few hours to suggest that they won’t.

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