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PM Modi says 100-crore-vaccine achievement answers doubts about India's capabilities

"Questions were raised whether India will be effectively able to combat the pandemic. Whether we will be able to procure the vaccines and innoculate our population. This achievement has answered all those questions once and for all," the Prime Minister said.

October 22, 2021 / 10:15 AM IST
Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

A day after India reached a landmark of 100 crore COVID-19 vaccination jabs, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the achievement was because of the efforts of each and every citizen.

"Many are comparing the vaccination programme to that of other countries. There has been a lot of praise. However, it is forgotten how we started," Modi said in an address to the nation on the morning of October 22.

"Questions were raised whether India will be effectively able to combat the pandemic. Whether we will be able to procure the vaccines and innoculate our population. This achievement has answered all those questions once and for all," the prime minister said.

No country other than China has achieved this landmark. What makes it even more remarkable is the slow, rather fraught, start that India’s vaccination programme made after its start on January 16.

In an interview to MoneycontrolNiti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, one of Modi's closest advisors, said that India warded off a potential third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic due to the pace of its vaccination programme.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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The vaccination drive started with inoculating healthcare workers in the first phase followed by non-medical frontline personnel like police, paramilitary, armed forces, sanitation and municipal workers, senior citizens in the subsequent phases.

The country launched vaccination for all people aged above 45 years from April 1. The government then decided to expand the ambit by allowing everyone above 18 to be vaccinated from May 1.

After some states protested that the Centre should underwrite the cost of vaccination entirely, Prime Minister Modi said late in June that it would do so, paying for 75 percent of vaccine procurement cost and distributing it to states, with the rest for private sector channels.

This took the vaccination budget for the year to Rs 50,000 crore from Rs 35,000 crore.

The government has used the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, Covishield, manufactured by Serum Institute of India, Pune, and Covaxin, developed jointly by Bharat Biotech and the Indian Council of Medical Research, as the drive’s two mainstays. It also approved a third vaccine for emergency-use later - Sputnik V.

India’s one-billion-dose feat comes on the back of huge supply bottlenecks, vaccine hesitancy in the initial period and a crippling second wave of the pandemic.

On October 16, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said that India would achieve the landmark milestone of 100 crore vaccine doses in the coming week.

The health minister also said that announcements would be made on airplanes, railway stations, metros when India achieves its target of 100 crore doses.

India administered a record 25 million-plus vaccine doses in 24 hours, the highest in a single day on September 18, as per the official update. Earlier, on June 28, India overtook the US in total COVID vaccine doses administered despite starting a month late.
Arup Roychoudhury

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