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India launches world's largest vaccination drive

Over 300,000 frontline workers to get vaccination shots on 1st day of nationwide roll-out

Cheena Kapoor and Ahmad Adil   | 16.01.2021
India launches world's largest vaccination drive


India's prime minister launched the world's largest vaccination rollout against the novel coronavirus Saturday.

The immunization drive is set to cover more than 300,000 workers on its first day alone and over 30 million by the end of the first phase, with a total of 3,006 vaccination centers across the country to distribute 100 shots for each healthcare and sanitation workers on the inaugural day to administer to the public.

"We have set an example for the world at many steps [...] Such a vaccination drive at such a massive scale was never conducted in history. There are over 100 countries having less than 30 million population and India is administering vaccination to this many people in the first phase only," said premier Narendra Modi.

Speaking via video-link at the event, Modi underlined that getting vaccinated would not be grounds to flout precautions against the virus, including mask wearing and social distancing.

"Two doses of corona vaccine are absolutely essential. Do not make the mistake of not taking the second dose. Two weeks after the second dose, you will develop the power to combat corona. The way you remained patient during the war with COVID, you must show the same patience in the vaccination," he urged.

An online platform, Co-WIN, was developed by the South Asian nation's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to provide real-time information on vaccine stocks, storage temperatures and list of beneficiaries.

"This vaccination program is based on the principles of priority groups to be vaccinated and Health Care workers, both in government and private sectors [...] will receive the vaccine during this phase," said a release by the ministry.

The drive started after India's drug regulatory authority approved two coronavirus vaccines for "restricted use in emergency situations" in the country last Sunday.

The country's drugs regulator has given the green light to two vaccines -- one developed by AstraZeneca with Oxford University and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (Covishield) and another by local firm Bharat Biotech (Covaxin) in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research.

30 million in first round

As Modi inaugurated the vaccination initiative in the morning, authorities across the country began administering the jabs.

In the national capital New Delhi, several top health officials were among those who received the first doses.

Most of those receiving the jab were enthusiastic. "I was kept under observation for 25-30 minutes after the vaccination. But everything went well and I am fine," a health worker from northern India said on a local news channel after he received the dose.

The country's Health Minster Harsh Vardhan described the drive as an "epoch-making moment for India."

"Launch of world's #LargestVaccineDrive by Hon'ble PM Sh @narendramodi Ji across 3006 vaccine centres in India takes us closer to ending this #pandemic," he said.

During his speech, Modi said 30 million people would be vaccinated in the first phase, adding that this figure would need to be raised to 300 million in the second round, when the elderly and people with serious co-morbidities will be immunized.

In Delhi, officials said the drive had started at 81 sites. On the first day, 8,100 people will get vaccinated, said Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

After his speech, Modi tweeted: "India begins the world's #LargestVaccineDrive. This is a day of pride, a celebration of the prowess of our scientists and hardwork of our medical fraternity, nursing staff, police personnel and sanitation workers.May everyone be healthy and free from illness."

India's COVID-19 caseload climbed to 10,542,841 on Saturday with 15,158 more people testing positive for the disease, while recoveries surged to 10,179,715, according to the Union Health Ministry data.

The country's death toll increased to 152,093 with 175 more fatalities.

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