In an important speech, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled a centralised Covid-19 vaccine policy on June 7. “Twenty-five per cent of the vaccination work with states will now be handled by the Centre, it will be implemented in the coming two weeks. Both State and Centre will work as per new guidelines in the coming two weeks,” Mr Modi said in a nationally televised address. He also announced that all citizens above the age of 18 years will get free vaccines from June 21. The prime minister also announced that the Centre, after closely tracking developments during the second wave of infections, will provide vaccines free to the States.
(Excerpts from PM Modi’s address to nation on June 7, 2021)
The second wave of Coronavirus and our fight as Indians with this pandemic is still going on. Like other countries we too have sufferered greatly, lost our near and dear ones. I stand with all those who went through this loss.
This is a once in a century pandemic, such a pandemic hasn’t been seen across the world in 100 years.
Our fight against the pandemic has been manifold – from setting up labs, to making ventilators, PPE kits and new medical infrastructure. During the second wave the demand for medical oxygen went up exponentially. Never before in India’s history did we see such a demand. We tackled it on a war footing pressing railways, Air Force, Navy and industry into service.
The increase in manufacturing or sourcing important medicines was also done. The most effective weapon against this invisible enemy remains COVID protocol. Vaccines are a shield against the disease.
There are few countries and companies producing vaccines compared to the number of countries that require them. If India hadn’t had two indigenous vaccines, what would have happened to our country?
In the past, polio, small pox, hepatitis B vaccines came after decades. When in 2014, when we were brought into government, vaccination coverage in India was just 60%.
We found it a matter of concern as the rate at which the vaccination programme was running, it would have taken 40 years for universal coverage.
We launched “Mission Indradhanush” and in only 5-6 years increased coverage from 60% to more than 90%.
We included vaccinations that covered other life-threatening diseases in the children’s vaccination programme.
We were heading to 100% coverage in vaccination when Coronavirus pandemic happened. Again, putting aside all apprehensions we launched two Made in India vaccines within a year.
As of now, 23 crore doses of vaccines have been administered already. We are successful in our endeavour only with self- confidence. We had complete confidence in our scientists. When the vaccines were being developed we were setting in place logistics.
Last year itself, in April we had set up a vaccine task force and supported scientists, manufacturers etc.
Funds under Covid Suraksha, under Aatmanirbhar Bharat package was made available. In the coming days vaccine supplies will be available. 7 companies are manufacturing and 3 more vaccine candidates are in the pipeline.
Trials for children
For children too, trial for two vaccines is on. A nasal vaccine is also being developed. If that is successful, we will see a ramping up of supplies majorly. This is a great accomplishment but it has its own limits.
Very few countries could start vaccination and that too mostly in prosperous countries.
The WHO had set out guidelines and other countries had their best practices, India too followed these guidelines. Government of India spoke to State governments, leaders of political parties in parliament to come up with a road map to protect the most vulnerable first – health care workers, frontline workers, elderly were prioritised.
India’s Vaccine strategy
It doesn’t bear thinking that prioritisation had not been done before the second wave hit. With the reducing number of cases a few months ago, several questions were asked of the Central government – why were State governments are not allowed to set its strategy, to decide on lockdown etc. As health is a state subject, the government then laid down broad guidelines on dealing with Coronavirus. Centre had supervised the vaccination from January 16 to end of April. People were getting vaccinations done in an orderly manner. State governments then started saying that the Centre should not be allowed to run the programme. A section of the media ran it as a campaign too.
Then the government of India decided that if this was the thinking, then as an experiment, they should be allowed to procure vaccines (upto 25%) from May 1st. Different States then made efforts in their own way. States became familiar with the problems and challenges of procuring vaccines. Within a fortnight, several States started saying that the earlier system was better. Then even those who had most vociferously asked for State procurement fell in line.
We thought about it and now it has been decided that there will be vaccine procurement only by the Centre and will be implemented in the next two weeks he 25% procurement in the hands of States will be back with the Centre and free vaccines will be available for 18-44 age group too Crores of Indians have received free vaccines, now even 18-44 will get it for free. Under the government run programme the vaccine will be free.
Those who want to get the vaccine at a private facility, that too has been kept in mind. Private hospitals can only charge Rs. 150 maximum as service charge over the cost of the vaccine. 25% of stock of manufacturers will be available for private hospitals.
Till now 130 crore Indians have walked together in this battle against Covid. That will continue as we speed up the rate of vaccination. We should remember that our rate of vaccination is faster than many other countries and its tech platform COWIN is also being appreciated.
In this situation, differences and political slugfest is not appreciated. Every administration and people’s representative wants speedy vaccination.
Caring for the Poor
Last year, when we had to impose a lockdown we disbursed free rations under PM Garib Kalyan Yojana for 8 months. In May- June this was continued. Now we announce that it will continue this programme till Diwali (November).
The aim of this is to ensure that not a single poor family goes to sleep hungry.
Amid all these, there have been myths being spread about vaccines. Creating doubt in the minds of Indians and demoralise our scientists are working hard to develop vaccines. The country is watching all this.
Those spreading rumours on vaccine are playing with lives of innocent people. We need to be aware of this. I request all of you to spread vaccine awareness. Corona curfew is being repealed in several places but it doesn’t mean the danger is over so we need to be careful.
We will prevail over Corona.
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