Indian PM Narendra Modi Posts Photo Receiving Unverified Coronavirus Vaccine

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Twitter / @narendramodi

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi received his first dose of Covaxin, a Chinese coronavirus vaccine candidate developed by Indian vaccine maker Bharat Biotech, on Sunday.

Modi tweeted a photo of himself receiving the shot at New Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on February 28.

“Took my first dose of the COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] vaccine at AIIMS… I appeal to all those who are eligible to take the vaccine,” the prime minister wrote.

India recently expanded its coronavirus vaccine drive to include people over the age of 60 and those over 45 with qualifying preexisting health conditions.

Modi’s public endorsement of Covaxin comes despite a failure by its manufacturer, Bharat Biotech, to release efficacy data proving its ability to impart immunity against the Chinese coronavirus. Indian health regulators rushed to approve Covaxin for emergency use on January 3 before Bharat Biotech had completed Phase III clinical trials for the vaccine candidate. A spokesperson for the vaccine maker said on February 22 it planned to publish efficacy data on Covaxin “in two weeks.”

Despite not knowing the vaccine candidate’s efficacy rate, India’s government has procured 5.5 million doses of Covaxin to distribute across the country since it launched a national coronavirus vaccine drive on January 16. India has administered an estimated 14.3 million coronavirus vaccine doses so far, though it remains unclear how many of the doses are Covaxin.

India’s government has also approved a coronavirus vaccine candidate called Covishield for emergency use. The British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and Oxford University originally developed Covishield, though India’s Serum Institute is currently manufacturing the shot. The Indian health ministry has secured 11 million Covishield doses for use in its vaccine drive.

India launched the world’s largest Chinese coronavirus vaccine drive on January 16. New Delhi said it aimed to vaccinate 300 million people within India’s population of 1.4 billion by August. India had vaccinated roughly half a million people within the campaign’s first day, according to the U.N.

India’s active coronavirus caseload fell to under 150,000 last week, or just 1.34 percent of the country’s total number of official cases, India’s health ministry said on February 23.

“There are 147,306 active cases of the coronavirus disease on Tuesday morning [February 23], lower than 150,055 reported on Monday morning,” the Hindustan Times reported, citing Indian health ministry data.

The drop in active coronavirus cases was indicative of an overall declining caseload for India in recent weeks, which has resulted in fewer people feeling the need to receive a coronavirus vaccine. A community health worker in the southern Indian city of Kollam “skipped her appointment to get her first dose of the vaccine after a hectic day on February 12,” despite having spent months urging people in her community to get vaccinated against the coronavirus through door-to-door visits.

“I don’t feel the need to rush because the worst is over,” A. Valsala told Time magazine on February 19.

“So there is a sense that it is okay to wait and watch since there are concerns about how these vaccines were developed so fast,” the healthcare worker added.

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