Safety of people is as important as speed of vaccination programme: PM
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday avoided giving a timeline about the vaccine, saying the government is keeping a close watch as some vaccine candidates have reached the final stage of the trial and asserted that the safety of citizens will be as much a priority for the government as the speed of the vaccination programme. He said that whichever vaccine India will give to its citizens will be safe on all scientific standards.
Noting that alertness has given way to "widespread" negligence about COVID-19 among people, Modi said a few states have seen a surge in the infection in the same way as many countries witnessed after an earlier decline and asked chief ministers to focus on bringing down positivity and fatality rates by curbing the virus transmission.
India has come out of the "deep sea" of this crisis after the world had thought that it will find it difficult to deal with the pandemic and the country is now moving towards the shores, he said, while using a famous verse to call for avoiding a situation where "our ship capsizes where the water is shallow" (hamari kashti wahan doobi, jahaan paani kam tha).
In a meeting with chief ministers and other representatives from states and union territories, Modi made an impassioned appeal for ensuring that no wrong step is taken in fighting the disease and also asked states to put in place adequate infrastructure like cold storage facilities for future vaccine distribution plans, saying it is a national commitment that everyone gets inoculated. Modi asked chief ministers to share their suggestions in dealing with the virus and also about vaccine programme with him in writing, saying no one can impose anything and they have to work together.
While experts and scientists work on developing the vaccine, the central and state governments have to focus on containing the virus spread, he said, cautioning against any laxity and negligence which, he added, have been seen in the "fourth stage" of the fight against the pandemic.
India has so far limited the harm due to the pandemic at the minimum and is in a much better state than many other countries in terms of recovery and fatality rates, he said.
In the meeting, which had a special emphasis on eight states that have seen an upward trend in the corona cases, Modi asked all chief ministers to work to bring down the positivity rate to near five per cent and the fatality rate to below one per cent. He called for a higher share of RT-PCR tests.
These eight states with high caseloads are Haryana, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat and West Bengal.
As the recovery rate grew, people began thinking that the virus is not harmful and has weakened, he said of the fourth phase. Many thought even if they are infected, they will be cured, he added.
This negligence became widespread, the prime minister said, adding that the mistakes turned into danger as laxity emerged.
"We will have to spread awareness about the dangers of corona in the fourth phase. Those who have to work on vaccine are working on it but we have to focus on the corona," he said.
Governments and administration have to be more vigilant in curbing the transmission, he said.
He also said the effort has been to make medical colleges and district hospitals self-sufficient in oxygen generation and added that a special emphasis of the PM CARES Fund has been on making oxygen available. The process for establishing more than 160 new oxygen plants is underway, he noted.
During the meeting, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan gave a presentation on the current COVID-19 situation and shared details about preparedness. He discussed targeted testing, tracing and testing all contacts within 72 hours, increasing RTPCR testing, efforts to improve the health infrastructure and fine-tuning of data reported from the States.
Chief Ministers of Delhi, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Kerala attented the meeting. The high-level meetings for review of the status and preparedness of COVID-19 response and management, as also to discuss modalities of the vaccine delivery, distribution and administration. were also attended by Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Health Minister Harsh Vardhan.
Meanwhile, official sources said that an estimated one crore frontline health workers will receive the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine whenever it becomes available, with around 92 per cent of government hospitals and 55 per cent of private hospitals across all states and UTs providing data identifying the workers.