ON 22 OCTOBER, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation for the tenth time since the pandemic started. He announced, to great fanfare, the achievement of a “vaccine century.” Hospitals, clinics and health centres across the country had managed to administer a billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines since the beginning of the year. “A hundred crore vaccine jabs is not just a number,” he said. “It is the reflection of the capacity of this country. This is a new chapter for the country, a country that knows how to achieve huge targets.” He went on, “Everyone questioned whether India will be able to do it. Hundred crore vaccine shots is an answer to all the questions.”
The day before the announcement, television news channels such as India Today, Times Now and CNN News18 broadcast live counting up to the billion-dose mark. Times Now covered the event throughout the day, with the news ticker “Bharat Billion Boosts” running alongside Modi’s photograph. “This is the India Model that the world is now looking up to, from the WHO, the United Nations, to all the developed countries,” a Times Now anchor standing next to a screen displaying the countdown proclaimed. “We have done it, India has done it!” the anchor said as the countdown reached zero.
The next morning, India’s newspapers carried big bold headlines on the government’s vaccine landmark. The Indian Express’s headline was “Vacci-Billion-Nation.” The Times of India went with “100 cr shots in the arm” and the subheading “India now a vaccine billionaire.” Most English dailies even carried the same opinion piece by Modi on how this milestone was achieved. The Hindustan Times carried two pieces alongside Modi’s opinion column. One was by RS Sharma, the CEO of the National Health Authority, on how the vaccination-registration platform Co-WIN was inclusive and dynamic. The other was by Ram Madhav, the national general secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party, on the Hindutva ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyay’s “integral humanist philosophy.” In effect, the newspaper had a full opinion page by the government and its supporters boosting its image.