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PM Modi Trashes Politics Over Covid-19 Vaccine, Says He Went by Scientists' Advice

File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In a televised interaction with health workers in his Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi, Modi referred indirectly to criticism over the emergency-use clearance given to Bharat Biotech's Covaxin.

Trashing politics over coronavirus vaccines and trying to allay fears, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said the call on launching them was taken by scientists. In a televised interaction with health workers in his Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi, Modi referred indirectly to criticism over the emergency-use clearance given to Bharat Biotech's Covaxin.

The prime minister said all sorts of things are said in politics but he went by the scientists' decision. Politicians talk about this and that (Idhar ki bhi baat hoti hai, udhar ki bhi'). I gave only one reply that I will do what the scientists say, this is not the job of us politicians to decide, he added.

And when the go-ahead from the scientists came, we had to decide from where to start. Then we decided to start from health workers who remain in contact with patients constantly," Modi said through video conference. "Some people are angry with my decision as well, he said.

The prime minister had launched the inoculation drive on January 16, with the government prioritising three crore health and frontline workers for the initial phase. But the authorities are grappling with hesitancy among the intended beneficiaries, amid concerns expressed by some over the vaccines' safety and efficacy.

Covaxin has been developed by Bharat Biotech. Covishield, the other vaccine rolled out this month, is developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca and manufactured by Serum Institute of India. "When doctors and health workers give a clean chit to the vaccine, it sends a very strong message among people about the efficacy of the shots," the prime minister told the gathering of health workers who had got themselves inoculated or had administered the vaccine to others.

"For any vaccine, there is hard work of scientists involved and it is a scientific process. You must have heard that I faced so much pressure on why the vaccine was not coming soon, he said, indicating that he decided to wait for the go-ahead from the scientists. It was an unknown enemy which scientists, who are modern 'rishis', chased in laboratories by working day and night, he said, hailing their fight against the virus.

"Our own made-in-India vaccine is reaching every corner of the country. India has not only become 'atmanirbhar' in the field of vaccines but is also helping other countries," the PM said. Modi said any feedback he gets from the people of Varanasi will help in other areas as well.

Starting his interaction with Pushpa Devi, a matron at a district women's hospital, the PM asked whether she could say with confidence to others that the vaccine is safe. "I was fortunate to get vaccinated, she replied, adding that she now felt safe for her family's sake as well.

I am telling everyone that there is no side effect. It's like any other injection and I appeal to everyone to go for it," she said. Modi reminded her that some people had apprehensions. The health worker said fear must shed and the vaccine taken — "Darr ko hatana hai, vaccine lagwana hai".

Health worker Rani Kunwar from the same hospital said, People bless us for the vaccine that we got within 10 months due to you." Talking to Dr V Shukla, chief medical superintendent at DDU hospital, the PM hailed the work of the medical fraternity as corona warriors. He said projects such as a cleanliness drive, safe drinking water and toilets offered "indirect benefits" while dealing with the virus. The doctor said there are potential side effects of every vaccine and drew a distinction between them and any adverse events due to a previous medical history.

"Despite India being a developing country, we stole a march over developed countries in developing the vaccine, Shukla said. Modi suggested that there should be competition among hospitals and other institutes on vaccinating frontline workers so that the next phase can start soon.

Senior Lab Technician R C Rai said his team was full of confidence and seeing them the others' trust on the vaccine has increased. Another medical worker said she vaccinated 87 people on January 16 alone, and also got herself vaccinated.

"Really, corona warriors have done a wonderful job," Modi said in the 30-minute interaction. He had earlier said the interaction was meant to get feedback on the vaccination drive, described as the world's biggest.

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