Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday made it clear that the government will follow the advice of scientists and regulators on the issue of timing and choice of Covid-19 vaccine, and, as of now, no single vaccine candidate has been finalized. He also clarified that safety will be as crucial as speed in vaccinating people.
In his closing remarks at the video meeting with chief ministers, Modi said, the priority will be to ensure that the vaccine reaches every Indian. He said, scientists and regulators, not politicians, will decide the time frame for vaccine selection and distribution. He said, some people were trying to politicize the vaccine issue but did not name anybody.
It may be recalled that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in his recent tweet had said: “The PM must tell the nation 1. Of all the Covid vaccine candidates, which one will the GOI choose and why? 2. Who will get the vaccine first and what will be the distribution strategy 3. Will PM Cares Fund be used to ensure free vaccination 4. By when will all Indians be vaccinated?”
The Prime Minister in his remarks said: “The government is closely monitoring the developments and we are in touch with all. It is still not decided whether it will be a single dose, a double dose or a triple dose vaccine. The prices are yet to be decided. I do not have answers to all these questions at this moment, because there is competition in the corporate world of vaccine manufacturers. Many countries have their own diplomatic interests. We have to wait for WHO to move ahead in the global context. We are also in touch with Indian developers and manufacturers. We have a system in place for real-time communication with global regulators, other governments, multilateral institutions, and international companies.
“Since the beginning, our topmost priority is for saving the lives of every Indian. When the vaccine comes, our priority shall be to provide the vaccine to every Indian. There can be no dispute about this and it is our national commitment. We would like the massive vaccination programme to be smooth, systematic and sustained because it will take a long time to complete. All of us will have to work in coordination like a team.”
The PM said, “as far as vaccination is concerned, India has a vast experience, which even the big countries do not have. For us, safety is as crucial as speed. The vaccine that we will give to our citizens must stand tested on scientific parameters. For distributing the vaccines, we will work with the states and have chalked out a plan for prioritizing whom to give the vaccine first. We had asked the states to set up a steering committee and task forces at the state and district level, and even at the block level for better distribution.”
On the pricing issue, Modi said, “nothing is clear at the moment about the price of the vaccine. Two Indian vaccine candidate are also in the field. But we are also working with those making vaccines outside India. We must know that if a medicine is popular among millions for the last 20 years, it can have a reaction on some people even today, or after 20 years. This can happen here too. So any vaccine candidate which will be selected must pass the scientific test. The decision will be taken by authorities who will certify the vaccine.”
The Prime Minister cautioned the chief ministers not to be complacent. “The vaccine will come at its own time, but there should be no let-up in our war against Corona, not even the slightest let-up. This is my request to all of you.”
Summarizing how India has fought the Corona pandemic so far, Modi said: “In the first stage, there was fear because nobody knew much about the unknown pandemic. There was widespread panic and everybody was reacting in his own manner. We even found people committing suicide when they found themselves Covid positive. In the second stage, suspicious added to fear in the minds of people. People started shunning those who were found positive and concealed their infection out of fear of social stigma.
“In the third stage, people started gaining confidence and informed everybody that they have been found positive and were in quarantine. In the fourth stage, when millions of people started recovering, there was a sense of complacency and a false notion spread that the virus has weakened and there was nothing to fear. Because of this negligence, the pandemic has spread fast in the fourth stage. I had appealed to people with folded hands in my address to the nation on the eve of festival season to be careful, but carelessness has cost us badly….We must bring the fatality rate below one per cent and the positivity rate to five per cent.”
There is not an iota of doubt that Modi’s leadership saved millions of lives from Corona pandemic. He took timely action in clamping lockdown and this has been accepted by the world at large as a correct decision. On the issue of Covid vaccine, leaders must avoid politicizing the issue which relates to the national interest. On Tuesday, neither Modi nor the chief minister indulged in politicizing the issue.
All of them wanted that the vaccine must reach every Indian in the shortest possible time at an affordable cost. But Rahul Gandhi’s habit is a bit different. He tried to politicize the issue and stuck to his anti-Modi agenda. The Prime Minister replied to each of his points that he raised, without naming him. I have quoted Modi’s replies to each of his questions at the beginning of this blog. I would also like to quote the couplet that Modi used in his remarks, about “Aisa na ho jaye ki hamari kashti bhi wahin doobi jahaan paani kam tha”(our boat sank at the place where the water was not deep). We must not allow this to happen.
I agree most of us are tired and exhausted by staying at home for such a long period, but let us have some patience and restraint. The vaccine will come at the right time and then people can roam free.
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