Prime Minister Narendra Modi received his first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, at AIIMS in New Delhi, on Monday. (ANI)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi received his first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, at AIIMS in New Delhi, on Monday. (ANI)

With first dose, PM Modi joins ranks of world leaders vaccinated against Covid

Among the first to received the coronavirus disease vaccine was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 71, closely followed by US President Joe Biden, 78
By HT Correspondent | Edited by Zara Khan
UPDATED ON MAR 02, 2021 02:09 PM IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, 70, on Monday became one of the few prominent world leaders to have received the vaccine against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). Among the Group of 20 countries, PM Modi is only the ninth leader to receive at least the first shot of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Among the first was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 71, closely followed by US President Joe Biden, 78. Netanyahu was the first Israeli to be inoculated. He was administered the vaccine developed Pfizer-BioNTech on live TV as the Prime Minister said he wanted to set a “personal example” to encourage other Israelis to get the shot.

Biden received his first shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in December last year, a month before being officially sworn in. He also took the vaccine on live television to counter vaccine hesitancy in the US, which is the worst-affected by the virus in the world, in a marked contrast to the mixed messages sent by former president Donald Trump.

Also Read | PM Modi gets first shot as second leg of inoculation drive begins

“I’m doing this to demonstrate that people should be prepared when it’s available to take the vaccine,” Biden had told reporters in Newark, Delaware, where he got the jab. “There’s nothing to worry about.” He received the second jab in early January.

PM Modi’s first jab follows that of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who also took the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

“Pleased to get my #COVID19 vaccine today along with Australia’s CMO Professor Paul Kelly to give further confidence to Australians in these vaccines, which have been tested and approved by our medical experts, are safe and effective,” PM Morrison, 52, wrote on Twitter after receiving the shot in late February.

Saudi King Salman, 85, received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine in early January, three weeks after the kingdom started its vaccination programme. The country’s health ministry said the inoculations would be rolled out in three phases, starting with people over 65 and those with chronic ailments or at high risk of infection.

His son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, considered the de facto leader of the country, was administered the vaccine in December. After the crown prince, 35, received his first jab of the Pfizer vaccine, registrations in Saudi Arabia to receive the vaccine increased five-fold, according to minister of health Dr Tawfiq Al-Rabiah.

In January, President Alberto Fernandez, 61, received the first dose of the Russian-made Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine in January, a day after Argentina’s health regulator cleared the vaccine for use among those aged 60 and above.

Also Read | US downplays possibility of sharing Covid-19 vaccines with Mexico

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also received the first dose of a vaccine in January in front of TV cameras. He received a shot of the Chinese-developed Sinovac. “I believe it will be vital for political leaders and deputies to encourage the vaccination drive (by getting vaccinated) themselves,” Erdogan told reporters after receiving the vaccine.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, 59, also received his first dose of the Sinovac vaccine in January, after the country approved the vaccine and began its efforts to vaccinate the population. He was vaccinated along with top leaders across the country and even social media influencers in an effort to encourage people to take the vaccine when it is available to them.

South African President Cyril Rampahosa was one of the first citizens to vaccinated, in January, with the one-shot Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine, which was also rolled out for health case workers. His vaccination was broadcast on live TV to build confidence among people. At the time, Johnson & Johnson was not authorised anywhere in the world and Ramaphosa effectively joined an observational study by taking the jab.

Vaccine shot awaited

Leaders of the major European countries, the European Union bloc, Japan, South Korea are facing flak for the slow vaccine roll-outs in their countries.

Prime Minster Yoshihide Suga of Japan and Prime Minister Moon Jae In of South Korea have been overseeing the vaccination of frontline workers, which have only recently begun. They have not yet been vaccinated themselves.

In Europe, most countries began by vaccinating either the elderly or health workers. Both French President Emmanuel Macron, 43, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, 66, have said they will wait for their turn to be vaccinated. There is no news on when recently sworn-in Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi is expected to receive the vaccine.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, 49, will also wait for vaccinations in the general category to take his shot. “We obviously have to give priority to the most vulnerable but the second I have a chance, like all healthy adults, I will do so very visibly and with enthusiasm,” Trudeau told French-language broadcaster Radio-Canada in December.

Also Read | Chinese vaccines sweep much of the world, despite concerns

While UK approved its first vaccines three weeks before the European Union, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, 56, is yet to receive the vaccine. Press secretary Allegra Stratton said in December that PM Johnson would not jump the queue and take the vaccine before those in greater need.

“I think we also know that he wouldn’t want to take a jab that should be for someone who is extremely vulnerable, clinically vulnerable and who should be getting it before him,” she said. Johnson spent several days in intensive care in April last year after contracting Covid-19.

Mexico started vaccinated people over the age of 60 with Sputnik V in mid-February. So far, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, 67, has not been vaccinated.

Despite actively encouraging the use of Sputnik V globally, President Vladimir Putin has not taken the vaccine yet. His spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Putin is following a vaccination schedule that requires him to take other shots first, including against flu and pneumococcal infections, before he can decide to have Sputnik V.

It is still unclear whether President Xi Jinping of China, where the virus first emerged, has received the Covid-19 vaccine. China was the first country to begin vaccinations in July last year and has approved five local vaccines since then. However, there is no official comment on whether President Xi has taken any vaccine or whether he intends to take it soon.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, likened to Donald Trump, has said as early as last year that he will not take the vaccine. “I’m telling you, I’m not going to take it. It’s my right,” he said in November last year. The president has been calling the virus a “small flu” and has been fighting virus-related restrictions since the beginning of the pandemic. Brazil is the second-worst affected country in the world.

Other world leaders

Some world leaders outside the G20, such as Seychelles President Wavel Ramkalawan and UAE Prime Minister Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, have been publicly inoculated.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, his family and several senior North Korean officials have also been vaccinated, a US analyst said in December, citing two unidentified Japanese intelligence sources.

“Kim Jong Un and multiple other high-ranking officials within the Kim family and leadership network have been vaccinated for coronavirus within the last two to three weeks thanks to a vaccine candidate supplied by the Chinese government,” Harry Kazianis, a North Korea expert at the Center for the National Interest think tank in Washington, wrote in an article for online outlet 19FortyFive.

In October, Kim had told the audience at a military parade that “not a single person” in North Korea had contracted the coronavirus.

Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo on Monday became the first recipient of a Covid-19 vaccine under the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax) scheme. The global initiative aimed at providing vaccines to poorer countries is using at least 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India. “It is important that I set the example that this vaccine is safe by being the first to have it,” he said.

PM Modi was given Covaxin, the vaccine developed by Hyderabad-based pharmaceutical firm Bharat Biotech Limited, at New Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). He was vaccinated on the first day of the second phase of the Covid-19 vaccination drive that has been rolled out across the nation. In this phase, people above 60 years of age and those in the 45 years to 59 years age group with co-morbidities are being inoculated.

“Took my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at AIIMS. 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 wrote on Twitter after getting the vaccine.

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