The Indian Medical Association on Monday requested its 3.5 lakh members to voluntarily get the COVID-19 vaccine to show to the world that these shots are safe and efficacious.
In a statement, the doctors' body said after an extensive review of scientific data, indexed articles, expert panel reports and discussion with Indian Council of Medical Research and World Health Organization experts, it has decided to actively take part in the COVID-19 vaccination programme rolled out by the government.
"The Indian Medical Association has requested all its 3.5 lakh members in 1,800 local branches to voluntarily come out to get vaccinated first to show the world that these vaccines are safe and efficacious," it said.
The IMA appreciates and congratulates the hard work of Indian scientists, modern medicine doctors and the Government of India for bringing out two vaccines against SARS-CoV 2. These vaccines are easy to store and use in Indian condition, according to the statement.
"India is heading towards becoming a superpower with research and development in the field of modern medicine. IMA rightfully stands firm as the natural and professional stakeholder in this achievement, not only in the development of the vaccine but also in delivering the vaccine.
"All infrastructure facilities of IMA branches across the country will be available voluntarily for this vaccination programme and all our members of Indian Medical Association will voluntarily serve with technical and supportive manpower," the statement said.
The doctors' body said it believes that getting vaccinated is not only to protect an individual but also to bring herd immunity, thereby raising the hope of bringing the pandemic under control.
"We stand with the scientists to endorse the safety and efficacy of both these vaccines, so public awareness and countering with myths on vaccine percolating in social media shall be our priority. Our modern medicine doctors will vouch for the safety, quality and professionalism in this difficult time and support the emergency approval for the usage of vaccines.
"However, we appeal to the public even after vaccination, to adhere to the COVID-19 appropriate behaviour like masks, physical distancing, hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene," it said.
The IMA headquarter has also constituted a Pharmacovigilance Centre in New Delhi for monitoring post-vaccination reactions and render appropriate support.
India will launch its COVID-19 vaccination drive from January 16 in what Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called the world's largest inoculation programme with priority to be given to nearly three crore healthcare and frontline workers.
India had recently granted emergency use authorisation to two vaccines, Oxford's Covishield being manufactured by Serum Institute in India and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin. Both vaccines, the statement from the health ministry said, have established safety and immunogenicity.
After vaccinating healthcare and frontline workers, priority will be given to those above 50 years of age and the under-50 population groups with co-morbidities, together numbering around 27 crore.