Bengaluru: The long-awaited COVID-19 vaccination program was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 16. According to the government, the first phase will cover three crore frontline workers.
The two vaccines, Covishield and Covaxin, approved by the Central Drugs and Standards Committee (CDSCO) for emergency use have become a tool for the Opposition to attack the government as the efficacy data of the Phase-3 trials conducted in India have not been made public yet. Some of the non-Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) ruled states such as Tamil Nadu and Delhi have promised free vaccination for everyone when the programme extends to all people.
The Indian National Congress has cornered the government on the vaccines' pricing and distribution. It is pressurising the government to be clear about its plan on vaccinating the poor and the underprivileged people. Congress leader Manish Tiwari has targeted the government saying, "if the vaccine is so safe and reliable then how it is that not a single functionary of the government has stepped forward to get vaccinated as it has happened in other countries?"
The Maharashtra Government has claimed to have received 9.83 lakh doses of the expected 17.5 lakh doses. The Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav has said that he would not take the “BJP vaccine”. He has promised free vaccination if he gets back to power.
The "vaccine factor" is expected to play a major role in upcoming West Bengal Assembly elections. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is luring the voters on the promise of 'free' vaccine. This move has been criticised by the BJP and the Congress calling it a “poll gimmick”.
Most of the non-BJP governments have politicised the vaccination drive and promised ‘free vaccination’ in order to showcase the Union Government’s incompetency to do the same. A group of 13 scientists, including six from the Indian Academy of Sciences, have issued an independent statement urging the government to release Covaxin Phase-3 trial data. According to them, providing a vaccine without adequate efficacy data can lead to a false sense of security among vaccine recipients. Meanwhile, the government entertained no questions in the press conference held to declare authorisation of the vaccines.
In the United States, more than 13.6 million people have been jabbed with at least one vaccine. The United Kingdom has so far vaccinated 4 million clinically vulnerable people.
The Indian Government plans to inoculate 30 crore people in the second phase of the programme. Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Harsh Vardhan has asserted that all the citizens will be vaccinated “soon”.