India reaching the milestone of 100 crore COVID-19 vaccinations in about nine months is a "remarkable achievement," credit for which goes to the state governments, district teams, the grassroots workers as also people of the country, Niti Aayog member VK Paul has said.
Speaking exclusively to ANI, Dr Paul, who is Member (Health), Niti Aayog, said people coming forward in such large numbers to get protection from the disease is "proud moment for India".
He noted that the focus now should be to reach out to people "away from normal communication channels" such as those in remote locations and those who need to be facilitated in the process of vaccination.
He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the response to the COVID-19 challenge from the front and "mentored the vaccination programme".
"The nation, its people and health care workers deserve congratulations. To reach 1 billion vaccination mark is remarkable for any nation. And this has been achieved in just over nine months since the start of the vaccination programme. It is an achievement of the state governments, the district teams, the grassroots workers and the people. Above all, it is the people who accepted and embraced and came forward to be part of our pandemic response to protect themselves and protect the society from the menace. So, truly a proud moment for India, and congratulations truly to the leadership of India, particularly the Prime Minister, who led the entire pandemic response from the front and blessed and mentored the vaccination programme," Dr VK Paul said.
Emphasising consistency in reaching the goal of fully vaccinating the people of the country, he said while 75 per cent of adults have got the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and the effort now has to be to reach out to the remaining population besides giving the second dose.
"We must see this achievement in a true perspective. Consistency is very important. The first tool (dose) has been given to just over 75 per cent of the adults. It means a great achievement, but at the same time 25 per cent of Indian adults who are eligible to receive free vaccine are still out. Efforts must go forward," he said, adding that everyone including family members, neighbours, grassroots workers, civil society and the government should make efforts to get the remaining people to the vaccination centres.
Dr Paul also appealed to people to get their second dose without delay as per their eligibility according to gaps prescribed for specific vaccines.
"Two doses have been given to about 30 per cent of Indians, which is fine, sounds okay. But what is concerning is that about 10 crore individuals are now overdue. They should have received a second dose but they have not. So it is now unfinished work that we must accomplish to ensure that those eligible receive the second dose. People should be reminded - you've got your first dose, you know that you're overdue to receive the second dose Please receive the second dose so that you are fully protected. you feel safe, your family feels safe. And you have a proper shield against the spread of this pandemic," he said.
"We must continue to push the frontier that the first dose reaches the universal coverage and we must continue to push the frontier that the second dose coverage also reaches 100 per cent. That's the national goal, that is the national plan," he added.
Talking about reasons for the overdue of the second dose, he said festival reason "had slowed down the vaccination programme to an extent".
"There are distractions but it is again picking up, I think there are multiple issues, let's highlight one or two of them. One is that a large number of people who have more information access have already received the vaccine. Now we are dealing with our brothers and sisters who are somewhat away from the normal communication channels. So we need to reach these people who could be in remote locations. These people could be in difficult-to-reach areas, some of the areas like the north-east that seem difficult to reach," he said.
"Secondly, it may also be due to the fact that I have the information, but I need help. Let me get connected to say CoWIN, or the vaccination site, I need to be facilitated, I need help. I may or may have issue about travelling or reaching, I may not know it. So apart from my willingness to receive the vaccine, it's also important that we facilitate connect of this citizen to the vaccine centre. I would appeal to our Panchayati Raj members to inform people in the community, in the villages such as teachers, other community leaders and self-help groups," he added. (ANI)