Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on Monday, the first day of India opening immunisation for those above 60 years of age and those over 45 who have co-morbidities.
The government hopes that given Modi’s public presence and his large social media following, his decision to take the shot will boost the vaccination drive by increasing public trust in Covid vaccines. The PM, who is 70, was administered Covaxin, the indigenous vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). This decision too seemed deliberate as it is seen as a vote of confidence in the vaccine that has been criticised by some experts for lacking efficacy data.
“Took my first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at AIIMS. Remarkable how our doctors and scientists have worked in quick time to strengthen the global fight against Covid-19,” Modi tweeted about an hour after taking the jab. “I appeal to all those who are eligible to take the vaccine. Together, let us make India Covid-19 free,” he added.
This assumes significance as India has started the second phase of vaccination targeting a larger population at a time when it is at a very crucial juncture with many states reporting an upswing in Covid-19 cases. Wider coverage of vaccination can help India stay ahead of the curve.
“Since daily case numbers from many pockets across India indicate a possible silent spread over the last weeks, we need to aggressively vaccinate now to prevent these numbers from swelling, and getting converted to deaths. Let’s also keep in mind that it takes many days to develop immunity even after the shot. We are at a key juncture,” Oommen C Kurian, senior fellow, health initiative at ORF, said.