The wait for a COVID-19 vaccine, according to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will not be long in India. According to experts it may be ready in a few weeks, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday asserted that the vaccination drive in India will begin as soon as scientists give the nod.
In his remarks made at an all-party meeting held virtually, Modi said healthcare workers involved in treating COVID-19 patients, frontline workers, who include police personnel and municipal staff, and old people suffering from serious conditions would be inoculated on priority.
Striking a note of caution, the Prime Minister referred to a fresh surge in COVID cases in some countries and said no one knows what shape future will take as he called for adhering to "proven weapons" like use of masks and keeping social distance to keep the virus at bay. At a time when the country stands on the verge of having a vaccine, any carelessness can be damaging, he asserted, underlining the need for having public participation and cooperation in curbing the pandemic.
Noting that there have been questions about the price of the COVID-19 vaccine, the prime minister said it is natural to have such queries and asserted that public health will be accorded top priority in the matter and states will be fully involved.
In his concluding address at the meeting called by the Union government to discuss the pandemic situation, Modi sought to address most burning aspects of the issue, ranging from India's vaccine readiness to its pricing, and reiterated that the country has done better than even some developed countries and those with better health infrastructure in tackling the pandemic.
This is the second all-party meeting called by the government to discuss the COVID-19 situation since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Modi said nearly eight vaccine candidates are at different stages of trial with their manufacturing assured in India and added that three from India are also at different stages of trial. Speaking about his interaction with Indian scientists involved in developing the vaccine and his visit to Pune, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad facilities where work is on in this regard, Modi said they are very confident of success.
Their confidence level is very strong, he said, adding that various vaccines from different countries may be being spoken about but the world is keeping a watch on having a vaccine which is cheap and also safest. That is why, he said, it is natural that the world is looking at India, a global centre for mass manufacturing of different vaccines at a very affordable cost.
From the time of fear and apprehensions in the months of February and March, when India reported its first COVID cases, to this atmosphere of "hope and confidence" in December, India has come a long way, he said. "India is one of the few countries where the testing and recovery rates are very high and the mortality rate is very low. Compared to developed countries, India has fought against COVID much better and has managed to save a lot of lives," Modi said.
Modi also urged political parties to keep the masses aware and protect them from rumours which, he added, are often spread whenever there is a mass vaccination exercise. The Centre is working in tandem with states for vaccine distribution, he said, adding that India is better than many countries when it comes to expertise and capacity of the programme. India has also prepared a software, Co-WiN, which will have real time information about the vaccination drive, including available stock of vaccine, he said, adding that a "National Expert Group", which has representation from the Union as well as state governments, will spearhead such an exercise.
Floor leaders of various parties in Parliament including Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Ghulam Nabi Azad of the Congress, Sharad Pawar of the NCP, Sudip Bandyopadhyay of the TMC and Ram Gopal Yadav of the SP were among those who attended the meeting. Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Amit Shah, Pralhad Joshi and Harsh Vardhan were also present.
(With inputs from PTI)