Indian PM Narendra Modi received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine on Monday
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has received the coronavirus jab as the country opened its vaccination programme for the wider population.
India launched its vaccination drive on 16 January, but it was limited to healthcare workers and frontline staff.
Now, people over 60 and those who are between 45 and 59 but have other illnesses can get vaccinated.
State-run hospitals will offer free jabs but people can also pay at private facilities to get vaccinated.
Mr Modi, who’s 70 years old, was among the first to get his vaccine shot on Monday. He was administered a jab of Covaxin, an indigenously developed vaccine.
After receiving the jab, he took to Twitter, urging people to take the vaccine when their turn came.
“Took my first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at Aiims [hospital]. Remarkable how our doctors and scientists have worked in quick time to strengthen the global fight against Covid-19. I appeal to all those who are eligible to take the vaccine. Together, let us make India Covid-19 free,” he tweeted.
The government aims to cover 300 million “priority people” by the end of July.
But the pace of vaccination has been slow – so far only 14 million doses have been given and experts say unless the drive is scaled up, the target could be missed.
The country’s drugs regulator has given the green light to two vaccines – one developed by AstraZeneca with Oxford University (Covishield) and one by Indian firm Bharat Biotech (Covaxin).
Several others candidates are at different stages of trials. Officials have said they hoped to use a “bouquet of vaccines” to speed up the vaccination drive in the coming months.
Since the pandemic began, India has confirmed more than 11 million cases and over 157,000 deaths.
Much of India has reported a sharp fall in cases recently – with daily infections for the county falling to less than 20,000 from a peak of over 90,000 in September.
But a handful of states have recently reported a sharp uptick in the number of cases.
Experts have blamed “carelessness” in following Covid safety norms behind the rise. Some have also said that new variants could also be the reason behind the surge but is it’s yet to be proven.