09:43 GMT19 April 2021
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    The second phase of the COVID vaccination drive in India kicked off on Monday. People aged above 60 and those over 45 with comorbidities are eligible to receive the jab during this phase. The COVID-19 vaccine is being given for free at government hospitals, while people will have to pay INR 250 ($3.40) for a jab at private hospitals.

    While Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the anti-COVID jab on Monday, the first day of the vaccination drive’s second phase witnessed various politicians showing reluctance to take the shot on various grounds.

    In Bharatiya Janata Party-governed Haryana State, Health Minister Anil Vij expressed his disinterest in the vaccination, saying his antibody count is already quite good due to the shots he took during the trial phase of the Covaxin vaccine. However, at the same time, he advised common people to take it without hesitation.

    "Today, the vaccination drive begins for the general public. Everyone should get it without any hesitation. I cannot take the vaccine because my antibody count is currently 300, which is quite high. Maybe this is due to the trial vaccine I had taken (earlier). I do not need the vaccine at this moment", Vij tweeted in Hindi.

    The minister tested positive for COVID-19 last December, days after volunteering to be a part of the third-phase trial of Covaxin.

    One parliamentarian from India’s main opposition party Congress said he was too old to take the jab.

    "I am above 70 years old. It would be best to give it [COVID-19 vaccine] to youngsters who have longevity in life. I merely have 10-15 more years to live", said Mallikarjun Kharge, the newly appointed leader of opposition in the parliament’s upper house.

    Sputnik also tried to speak with a few senior leaders to ask whether they will take the jabs or not. While a few chose not to reply, others said they would follow what their doctors suggest to them. 

    "As I had contracted COVID in the past, I will consult my doctor on whether I should take the vaccine or not", senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar, 79, told Sputnik.

    Meanwhile, Prime Minister Modi took the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday at Delhi’s top hospital, the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS).

    The 70-year PM was the first beneficiary in the second phase of the nationwide vaccination campaign.

    The first inoculation drive began in India on 16 January, with frontline workers being given the jab. Over 14 million people have been vaccinated in India, according to the federal Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.  

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