Home Equality & Justice Indian cardinal gets COVID-19 vaccine, urges everyone to be inoculated

Indian cardinal gets COVID-19 vaccine, urges everyone to be inoculated

Cardinal Oswald Gracias, president of the Indian Bishops’ Conference, has received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on March 4 in Mumbai.

“I was privileged to begin this,” said the cardinal in an interview with AsiaNews. He said lauded the Indian government’s move to allow charity hospitals to join the country’s vaccination drive.

India administered 1.4 million vaccine doses in the past 24 hours, the country’s health ministry said March 5.

It was the highest in a day since the campaign began in mid-January as the government moves to address initial hiccups.

The country of 1.35 billion people still has to nearly double its current rate of vaccination to meet its target of covering 300 million people by August.

The two vaccines in use in India need to be administered in two doses, four to six weeks apart.

India has so far given 18 million doses to about 15 million people.

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“I want to encourage everyone to take the vaccine. It is easy, it is painless and comfortable,” said Cardinal Gracias.

“I am so proud of our country. I am proud that India has taken the lead; not only concerned about itself but also concerned about other countries,” said the prelate.

The Catholic Church leader also lauded the Indian government for sending the vaccine to other countries that are in need.

He said Indian vaccines have been distributed around the world, particularly to low-income countries, supplying more than 60 percent of vaccines in the developing world.

Cardinal Gracias, meanwhile, urged the government to see to it that the vaccine reaches rural areas.

“We will assist where possible. Even educating [people] on the need for the vaccine,” he said.

A file image of Cardinal George Alencherry (left) and Cardinal Oswald Gracias arriving for Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica ahead of a papal election conclave on March 12, 2013. (Photo by Gabriel Bouys/AFP)

The vaccination pace in India increased this week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi kicked off an expansion of the drive to include the elderly and those aged 45-59 suffering from medical conditions.

The government has also roped in many private hospitals, allowing them to run vaccinations throughout the day and assuring there is no shortage of shots in the world’s biggest vaccine-making country.

Unlike earlier when health and front-line workers had to get their shots in assigned vaccination centers, people are now free to choose their site.

Modi, 70, on March 1 opted for Bharat Biotech’s government-backed vaccine COVAXIN, although most people are getting the shot licensed from AstraZeneca.

The next vaccines in line for regulatory approval are Russia’s Sputnik-V and Cadila Healthcare’s ZyCoV-D.

India reported 16,838 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the total to 11.2 million, only behind the US tally of about 29.5 million. Deaths rose by 113 to 157,548.

With Reuters

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