Modi launches Covid vaccine drive; AIIMS sanitation employee first to get indigenous Covaxin shot

Aditi Tandon

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 16

A sanitation worker from AIIMS, New Delhi, on Saturday became the first Indian to get a COVID-19 vaccine shot, moments after Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the world’s largest inoculation drive, following a highly emotional address to the people.

Tears in eyes and lumps in throat, the Prime Minister remembered the desperate times of 2020 when families did not know any way out of the pandemic, and when they could not even offer ritualistic send-offs to the departed.

“Decision of a lockdown wasn’t easy but we went by the dictum ‘Jaan hai toh jahaan hai’,” Modi said.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi virtually launches pan-India rollout of COVID-19 vaccination drive, in New Delhi on Saturday. PTI Photo

“These vaccines will give us a ‘decisive victory’ in our fight against COVID-19,” said the Prime Minister, hailing the Indian resolve against COVID-19 as one of confidence and self reliance.

Exhorting people against falling for rumours or propaganda, the Prime Minister equated Indian scientists and researchers with meditating saints, who worked through the last year to deliver two made-in-India vaccines — which are the most “cost effective in the world”.

“Do not fall for propaganda, rumours and misinformation. Indian vaccine scientists, our medical system and rigour has respect and credibility in the world. We have earned this credibility with our track record,” the Prime Minister said.

A health worker receives Covaxin jab at Hodal subdivision, Palwal, Haryana, on Saturday. Tribune Photo

 “The country has awaited this day eagerly for months. Everyone wanted to know when the COVID vaccine will come. The vaccine is here and in a very short time,” he added.

“Today, a grateful nation returns that favour and repays that loan by ensuring that health-care workers get the first shots,” Modi said while kicking off one-of-a-kind vaccine drive in human history.

An ASHA worker receives COVID-19 vaccination shot during the vaccination drive at Government Girls School in Johari village, Gurugram. Tribune Photo: Sukh Chandan

Detailing its scale, the Prime Minister while over a hundred countries had a population of less than three crore, India aimed to cover three crore people in the first phase of the inoculation.

“Never has such a scale of vaccination been run ever in history. You can imagine the scale from the first phase. More than hundred nations have less than three crore population and india is vaccinating three crore in phase one,” Modi said.

“Do not make the mistake of taking one shot and forgetting another. There will be a 28-day gap. You must remember that two weeks after the second dose, you will get the necessary protection from COVID. Don’t become casual affer the jab,” he reiterated.

Karnal Civil Surgeon Dr Yogesh Sharma receives COVID-19 vaccination on Saturday. Tribune Photo: Sayeed Ahmed

The Prime Minister also said only three nations — India, China and the US — have a population of more than 30 crore, a number India will target in the first two phases of the vaccination, which will cover one crore health workers and two crore frontline workers in the first phase, and 27 crore 50-plus people and under 50-years category with co-morbid conditions.

The Prime Minister asked people to take the benefit of the vaccines saying the world trusted Indian scientific rigour.

People attend the launch campaign of vaccinating health workers at Government Girls School in Johari village, Gurugram, on Saturday. Tribune Photo: Sukh Chandan

“Today the scientists, and those associated with the vaccine deserve our special gratitude as they were engaged in vaccine development day in and day not through festivals,” Modi said. 

“This trust will be strengthened further as we conduct the COVID-19 drive, a process that will take a long year, but we just show the same self-confidence and self-reliance through the inoculation drive as we showed during our fight against the pandemic last year,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, quoting national poet Ramdhari Singh Dinkar “maanavvl jan zor lagaata hai, pathar paani ban jaata hai”.

PGI Director Dr Jagat Ram inaugrated the COVID-19 vaccination drive at PGI in Chandigarh on Saturday. Tribune Photo

To boost confidence among the countrymen about the vaccine, the Prime Minister also cited Telegu legend Apparao, who had said a nation was built on people and not bricks.

“We must give back to society,” the PM said.

After he launched the drive, New Delhi AIIMS kicked off the process by inoculating sanitation worker Manish, followed by Nursing Officer Dhawal Dwivedi, institute Director Randeep Guleria and NITI Aayog Member (Health)VK Paul.

A health worker receives COVID-19 vaccination at Panchkula on Saturday. Tribune Photo: Nitin

Simultaneously, the drive rolled out across the country at 3,006 chosen locations — where 100 beneficiaries each will be covered today — taking the total number of vaccinated to three lakh by this evening, if all the three lakh registered Heath workers turn up to take their shots.

Modi said scientists and experts had given permission for emergency use of the made-in-India vaccines only after being absolutely sure of their safety and the people should be aware of any propaganda and rumours.

The made-in-India vaccines would ensure a “decisive victory” for the country over the coronavirus pandemic, he asserted.

People attend the launch campaign of vaccinating health workers at Government Girls School in Johari village, Gurugram, on Saturday. Tribune Photo: Sukh Chandan

The process is voluntary.

The first shot to be administered today was the indigenously made Bharat Biotech-ICMR’s COVAXIN.

Earlier, the Prime Minister recalled the dark days following the pandemic outbreak and said: “Today, I am remembering the days when everyone wanted to do something but did not have a way. Children had to live apart from mothers. Mothers cried and couldn’t do anything. Many elders were battling the disease all by themselves. We could not even see off the departed in traditional ritualistic ways.”

Dr Jeyraj Pandian, principal, Christian Medical College and Hospital, was vaccinated the first vaccine shot at CMCH. Tribune Photo: Himanshu Mahajan

“The more we think of those days the more anguished we feel. But friends, in that same atmosphere of crisis, someone was weaving webs of hope. Someone was putting their lives at risk for our safety — our doctors, nurses, parade coal staff, Asha workers, ambulance drivers and sarai Karamcharis.  They gave their role of service to society a priority — they stayed apart from families, did not go home for days. Several friends never came back home. This is why the society is repaying its loan and gratitude by giving the first doses to health workers today. COVID-19 vaccines are a tribute of a grateful nation to health workers,” the Prime Minister said teary eyed.

While all 100 beneficiaries at New Delhi AIIMS are being given COVAXIN shots, the 100 beneficiaries being vaccinated at PGI, Chandigarh, are being adminstered Covishield.

States have been given both vaccines and the choice of allocation to session sites has been left to the states.

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