As the country reaches the second phase of the vaccination drive to inoculate senior citizens and those above 45 with underlying medical conditions, protesting farmer leaders in the vulnerable age group said that they are not afraid of the virus and shall not take vaccine jabs.
As it is an individual's choice, the leaders also added that they will not force any protesting farmer from getting vaccinated.
Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at three Delhi border points -- Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur -- for over three months, demanding a repeal of the three agri reform laws enacted by the Centre in September last year.
The 80-year-old farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal, a senior member of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha which is spearheading the agitation, said he will not go to vaccination centres to receive the jabs.
"I don't need vaccine jabs. We have killed corona. Farmers’ immunity level is strong because they work hard in their fields. Farmers are not afraid of coronavirus,” Rajewal told PTI.
Another senior leader Joginder Singh Ugrahan (75) said the fear of contracting the disease is "not enough" to distract them from their fight.
"There is no corona for farmers. I will not get vaccine shots, but we will not ask anyone to not get the shot," said the president of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), which is leading the protest at Delhi's Tikri border.
However, Dharmendra Malik, the media in-charge of Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait who is leading the protest at the Ghazipur border, said if the local administration makes arrangements for protesting farmers, Tikait will not have any problem getting vaccinated.
The 70-year-old Kulwant Singh Sandhu, a member of Samyukta Kisan Morcha, said he will not receive the vaccine shot.
"We are not afraid of coronavirus. Thousands of farmers are staging sit-in protests at Delhi borders, but not a single case of coronavirus has been detected there," Sandhu said.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took his first dose of COVID-19 vaccine at the AIIMS here and appealed to all those who are eligible to get inoculated.
“Took my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at AIIMS. Remarkable how our doctors and scientists have worked in quick time to strengthen the global fight against COVID-19," he tweeted.
"I appeal to all those who are eligible to take the vaccine. Together, let us make India COVID-19 free!" Modi said.
The second phase of the COVID-19 vaccination drive began on Monday in the country.
In the first phase, starting January 16, over 3.6 lakh beneficiaries comprising healthcare workers and frontline workers, have been vaccinated in Delhi.
On Monday, the drive began to give jabs to persons aged 60 and above, and those in the 45-59 age bracket with comorbidities.
With PTI Inputs
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