As of 24 January 2021, over 16 lakh healthcare workers in India have received a vaccination as part of the national COVID-19 vaccination drive. While the opening up of vaccination campaign to the general public hasn’t yet been announced, there are several questions around the vaccination drive that are surfacing. Among them: is it mandatory to take the COVID-19 vaccine?

So far, the two vaccines to secure emergency-use approval in India are the indigenous Bharat Biotech-ICMR Covaxin and Serum Institute’s Covishield vaccine. Both are currently in the middle of late-stage clinical trials.

“The government has made the vaccine not mandatory as of now. So, people have a choice to refuse or take the vaccine,” said Dr Shahid Jameel, CEO of the Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance and Director of the Trivedi School of Biosciences at Ashoka University. “But once you have agreed to take it, you don’t have a choice at this time to pick the vaccine you want. You’ll get what is available at the centre you’re vaccinated.”

“It is a choice, and you can refuse the vaccine. But as and when it becomes more easily available, it should be taken by everybody,” said Dr Om Srivastava, director of infectious diseases at Jaslok Hospital, Mumbai.

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