By Ahmad Adil
NEW DELHI (AA) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi received his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine Monday as the country kicked off the second phase of a vaccination drive.
Announcing the news on social media, Modi said he took the first shot at New Delhi's All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
"Took my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at AIIMS. Remarkable how our doctors and scientists have worked in quick time to strengthen the global fight against COVID-19," he wrote on Twitter, while appealing to all those who are eligible to take the vaccine.
"Together, let us make India COVID-19 free!" he added.
Modi received the Covaxin vaccine produced by India’s Bharat Biotech on the same day the country began the second phase of its vaccination drive, in which people aged above 60 and those aged 45 and above with any of 20 specified comorbidities are eligible to register for vaccination.
While government institutions will not charge anything for the vaccination, the government last week announced that private health facilities cannot charge more than 250 Indian rupees (around $3.50) per dose per person.
Many Indian citizens are looking forward to getting vaccinated in the second phase.
"The cases have started to increase again. I have decided I will get my father vaccinated," said Sanjay Chauhan, a Delhi resident, referring to an increase in COVID-19 cases in several Indian states that have raised concern.
Local experts believe the country's vaccination drive has not gone as expected. According to India's Health Ministry, over 14 million vaccine doses have been administered across the country so far, to mostly health care workers.
"Bad design, no public education, no openness about adverse reactions, no clarity on choice between two vaccines, vaccines not yet licensed but under restricted emergency use — hence apprehension among people," India's leading virologist T. Jacob John told Anadolu Agency on Sunday.
According to the Health Ministry, the total number of cases in the country stands at 11,096,731, with the death toll at 157,051 and recoveries at 10,775,169.