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Prime Minister Modi of India receives COVID-19 vaccine

Prime Minister Modi of India receives COVID-19 vaccine
© Getty Images

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi received the coronavirus vaccine Monday as one of the world’s most populous, and hardest-hit, countries prepares to expand vaccine distribution.

Modi received his first dose of Covaxin, developed by Indian pharmaceutical company Bharat Biotech. The vaccine, along with AstraZeneca’s, is one of two cleared for emergency use in India, The New York Times reported.

The prime minister has centered the need for a “self-reliant India” in pushing for vaccinations, presenting widespread inoculations as a matter of national pride.

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In his monthly radio address over the weekend, Modi said the “the first condition for self-reliance is to have pride in the things of one’s own country.”

Only about 14 million of India’s 1.3 billion people have been vaccinated so far, and surveys show vaccine hesitancy as high as 58 percent.

Giridhar Babu, an epidemiologist at the Public Health Foundation of India, warned that long waits for the vaccine for elderly people could increase the risk of transmission.

"The unintended effect might be that they get COVID when they go to get the vaccine,” he told The Associated Press.

The government expanded eligibility to those 60 years old and above on Monday as well as people with chronic conditions who are 45 and above, according to the Times. Among the country’s approximately 20 million front-line workers, only about 5.1 million have received the shot, while only 6.6 million of 10 million health care workers have gotten at least their first vaccine, the AP reported.

India has the second highest number of cases worldwide after the U.S., with over 11.1 million, and has seen a recent spike after new cases slowed.

After an increase of more than 8,000 new cases in one day, the state of Maharashtra announced new lockdown measures, according to the newspaper.