Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla was administered the first dose of the Covishield coronavirus vaccine on Saturday afternoon, hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched India’s nationwide vaccination drive.
Mr Poonawalla, whose company is manufacturing the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University – posted a video on Twitter, in which he is sitting on a couch as a man wearing a face mask injects the drug into his arm. He said he was taking the vaccine – which is being reserved for frontline workers and healthcare staff at this stage – to “endorse its safety and efficacy”.
“I wish India and Narendra Modiji great success in launching the world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination roll-out. It brings me great pride that Covishield is part of this historic effort and, to endorse its safety and efficacy, I join our health workers in taking the vaccine,” he tweeted.
I wish India & Sri @narendramodi ji great success in launching the world’s largest COVID vaccination roll-out. It brings me great pride that #COVISHIELD is part of this historic effort & to endorse it’s safety & efficacy, I join our health workers in taking the vaccine myself. pic.twitter.com/X7sNxjQBN6
— Adar Poonawalla (@adarpoonawalla) January 16, 2021
Earlier today the Prime Minister hailed the Indian scientific community for developing vaccines. He also warned against spreading or falling for rumours about the safety or efficacy of the vaccines.
“The DCGI (Drug Controller General of India) gave approval after they were satisfied with the data of the two vaccines. So stay away from rumours,” the Prime Minister said in his 30-minute address, adding, “India’s vaccines are developed in a way keeping in mind the conditions of the country.”
Two vaccines have been cleared for emergency use in India – Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin. While the former has completed the three phases of clinical trials as mandated by law, and reported a 70.42 per cent efficacy rate, Covaxin has only finished two; the third is ongoing.
Questions were raised after the vaccine was cleared, but the government said the decision was based on “a tremendous amount of immunogenicity and safety data” from Phase I and II trials. The vaccine, the government has said, has been allowed in “clinical trial mode”.
Those being vaccinated will not have a choice of vaccines, the government has also said. However, to reiterate Covaxin’s efficacy, NITI Aayog member Dr VK Paul, said that he (and AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria) had both received doses of the Bharat Biotech drug.
Around three crore people are to be vaccinated in the first phase.
Of these, one crore are healthcare staff and the rest frontline workers – like police, and community and sanitation workers – playing a key role in the battle against the coronavirus. In the next phase around 27 crore people (those above 50 years and those below 50 but with comorbidities) will be vaccinated.