Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare virtually delivered the keynote address on ‘Reshape Tomorrow Summit’ organised by The Economic Times.
Reminding of the turmoil faced by the world in the last year and how it resulted in India’s stronger, wiser, more united and resilient emergence, Dr Harsh Vardhan said, “I have often called 2020 the year of science. A vaccine development process that used to take many years, often decades, has been condensed to about 11 months. Just last January, research started with a previously unknown virus and we now have not just one, but several vaccines that will be administered to millions of people before year-end with several other types of COVID-19 vaccines also on the way.” He noted that although both vaccines are being manufactured in India, Covaxin by Bharat Biotech has been developed in India under the ambit of “Atmanirbhar Bharat” showcasing our remarkable scientific acumen and vaccine development capability to the world. “People have embraced our ‘Made in India” vaccines, and it is due to this enthusiasm & trust, we crossed our last 1 Crore vaccinations in just under 4 days”, he added.
Dr Harsh Vardhan detailed India’s investment in the “Test, Track and Treat” strategy along with its fruitful Behavioral Change campaign as the bedrock of India’s highest recovery rate and miniscule fatality rate. He praised Minister of Finance, Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman’s decision to allocate ₹35,000 crores for the COVID-19 vaccination drive in 2021-22 budget. He also shared the wisdom behind the designing of the priority cascade of different groups of beneficiaries proposed by National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI) and National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC).
The Union Minister informed the audience on India’s tryst with COVID-19 vaccination: “On 16 January 2021, India started its national vaccination programme against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This day of the programme witnessed the vaccination of the highest number of beneficiaries covered anywhere in the world on the first day. Back then, our first and foremost priority was to use the COVID-19 vaccine as a shield to protect our Healthcare Workers & Frontline Workers. Within the first 34 Days, we touched 1 Crore vaccination, and in the subsequent weeks, we have opened the vaccination to other priority groups. Throughout this vaccination drive, our focus has been on keeping the services as citizen friendly as possible. Since 1st March 2021, Private Health Facilities have been permitted to function as COVID-19 Vaccination Centers while being allowed to charge a maximum amount of Rs 250/- for the same. To speed up the pace of vaccination, the Government has lifted the time restriction. People can now get vaccinated 24×7 according to their convenience across India. Just a few days back, the Government announced that from April 1, all citizens aged 45yrs and above, whether having any comorbidity or not, will be eligible to get vaccinated across India. The Government is already planning to widen the umbrella of COVID-19 vaccine beneficiaries soon to cover other sections of our population.”
Applauding the collaborative approach followed by India used for planning and execution of the vaccination drive, he propounded the exercise as an excellent example of how the federal system can work in synergy to maximize the reach of a programme. He added that the vaccination drive is being coordinated as a ‘Jan Bhagidari Aandolan’ involving many stakeholders like ministries, departments, professional bodies, medical colleges, NGOs, CSOs, media houses, private sector, youth & women volunteer groups.
Dr Harsh Vardhan concluded by explaining how the India’s contribution to Global COVID Vaccination through the ‘Vaccine Maitri’ initiative is reshaping the post COVID era along with India’s footprint in it: “In these trying times when clamorous for ‘Vaccine Nationalism’ is on the rise, our beloved PM Sh Narendra Modi Ji, being a champion of global cooperation & humanity has led the way by example. His decision to extend help to our global family not only resonates well with our age-old virtues of ‘Vasudhaiva kutumbakam’, exalting the entire world as one family, but has also further cemented India’s stature as a true leader in the comity of nations.”