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India races for COVID-19 vaccine by mid-August as cases rise

Modi critics see rush as political game while experts find timeline unfeasible

The rush to develop a COVID-19 vaccine in India is fast becoming a political issue for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  (Nikkei Montage/Reuters) 

NEW DELHI -- India's top medical research body is aiming by mid-August to launch the country's first vaccine against COVID-19, an ambitious goal health experts call "unrealistic" and critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi view as a move to help him score political points.

India, the world's third worst-hit nation by the coronavirus pandemic, will celebrate its 74th Independence Day on Aug. 15 when Modi will address the nation. If the potential vaccine is ready by then, his opponents fear that the prime minister making such a significant announcement would win him popularity among voters. As of July 9, the country had 767,296 confirmed COVID-19 cases, while the death toll had jumped to 21,129.

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