Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday described India’s COVID-19 vaccination drive as a journey from “anxiety to assurance” that has made the country emerge stronger, and credited its success to people’s trust in the vaccines despite “various efforts to create mistrust and panic”.
In an opinion piece a day after the cumulative vaccine doses crossed the landmark figure of 100 crore, Modi noted that the feat was achieved in nine months despite many doubting the country’s capability, and asserted that his government ensured that, like its other schemes, there is no “VIP culture” in the vaccination drive either.
There was a lot of pressure from different interest groups to give preferential treatment to them in vaccination, he said, while giving credit to Indian scientists and entrepreneurs for rising to the occasion to make the country “aatmanirbhar” (self-reliant) in producing vaccines.
Outlining the enormity of the challenge, from producing the vaccine in plants of Pune and Hyderabad to ensuring last mile delivery across the country with seamless logistics, Modi said the drive has been an unprecedented effort in the history of independent India.
“When everyone takes ownership, nothing is impossible. Our healthcare workers traversed hills and crossed rivers across difficult geographies to vaccinate people. Our youth, social workers, healthcare workers, social and religious leaders, all deserve credit for the fact that India faces minimal vaccine hesitancy when compared to even developed nations,” he wrote in the piece “Team India-Responding to Adversity with Achievement”.
Administering 100 crore doses of vaccines in just about nine months since the vaccination started has been a tremendous journey in dealing with the disease, the prime minister said, noting that humanity was dealing with such a pandemic after 100 years and no one knew much about the virus following its outbreak in early 2020.
“We remember how unpredictable the situation appeared then, as we were faced by an unknown and invisible enemy mutating rapidly. The journey from anxiety to assurance has happened and our nation has emerged stronger, thanks to the world’s largest vaccination drive,” he said.
“One of the reasons for the success of the campaign was the trust that people developed in the vaccine and the process followed, despite various efforts to create mistrust and panic,” he added.
Describing the exercise as “bhagirath” (gigantic) effort involving multiple sections of society, he pointed out that if it is assumed that a healthcare worker took just two minutes for every vaccination then at this rate it took around 41 lakh man days or approximately 11 thousand man years of effort to reach this landmark of 100 crore doses.
“There are some among us who only trust foreign brands, even for simply everyday necessities. However, when it came to something as crucial as the COVID-19 vaccine, the people of India unanimously trusted ‘Made in India’ vaccines. This is a significant paradigm shift,” he said.
India’s vaccine drive, Modi added, is an example of what the country can achieve if the citizens and the government come together with a common goal in the spirit of “Jan Bhagidari” (people’s participation).
Noting that only a handful of countries have developed their own vaccines so far, he said more than 180 countries are dependent on an extremely limited pool of producers and dozens of nations are still waiting for the supply of vaccines while India has crossed 100 crore doses.
“Imagine the situation if India did not have its own vaccine,” he said.
He expressed hope that the success of the vaccination drive will further spur India’s youth, innovators and all levels of government to set new benchmarks of public service delivery which will be a model not only for our country, but also for the world.
“When India started its vaccination programme, there were many people who doubted the capabilities of 130 crore Indians. Some said India would take 3-4 years. Some others said people will not come forward to get vaccinated. There were those who said there will be gross mismanagement and chaos in the vaccination process,” he said.
Some even said that India will not be able to manage supply chains, he added, asserting that like the ‘Janta Curfew’ and subsequent lockdowns, people of India showed how spectacular the results can be, if they are made trusted partners.
Modi said people used to see governments as a roadblock to forward movement but his government has instead been an accelerator and enabler of progress.
All ministries of the government came together to facilitate the vaccine makers and remove any bottlenecks as a result of our ‘whole of Government’ approach, he said.
All these efforts, he said, were complemented by a robust tech platform in CoWIN.
“It ensured that the vaccine drive was equitable, scalable, trackable and transparent. This ensured that there was no scope for favouritism or jumping the queue. It also ensured that a poor worker could take first dose in his village and the second dose of the same vaccine in the city where he works, after the required time interval,” he said, adding that there are hardly any examples of such efforts not only in India but also the world.
“Our vaccination drive has yet again showed the power of this ‘Team India’,” the prime minister said, recalling his Independence Day speech in 2015, and asserted that India’s success in its vaccination drive has also demonstrated to the whole world that “democracy can deliver”