India distributes first batch of Covishield ahead of vaccination

New Delhi, Jan 12 (efe-epa).- India on Tuesday dispatched the first batch of Covishield vaccine to distribution centers across the country ahead of the vaccination drive set to kick off during the weekend in the world’s second most populous country.

The Covid-19 vaccine has been developed by the United Kingdom’s Oxford University and British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, and will be administered to the people from Saturday onwards.

On Tuesday before daybreak, several refrigerated trucks departed with the Covishield shipment from the facilities of the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines in terms of volume, in western Pune, to the city’s airport.

“Vaccine movement takes flight in India! On a mission to make #Covishield reach every Indian,” tweeted Airports Authority of India after the arrival of the first batches of the vaccine at New Delhi and the southern city of Chennai.

Some 5.6 million doses were scheduled to be transferred on Tuesday from Pune to at least 11 airports in this country of 1.35 billion inhabitants, the Ministry of Civil Aviation reported.

In its first phase of its mass vaccination plan, India seeks to reach some 300 million people, including 10 million health workers, 20 million frontline workers during the pandemic, and 270 million people over the age of 50, or with severe chronic diseases.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called this drive the largest vaccination campaign ever made in the world.

A week ago, Covishield, manufactured in India by SII, obtained the license for “restricted use in emergency situation” by the Indian regulators, along with Covaxin, an indigenous formula developed by the Indian laboratory Bharat Biotech and the Indian Council of Medical Research.

Serum, which began production at a risk before even obtaining the license, has about 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine, half of which are intended use for India.

The vaccination plan comes at a time when official data indicate a deep and sustained decline in the spread of the novel coronavirus in India, with a progressively lower number of deaths.

The Ministry of Health on Tuesday reported 12,584 fresh infections in the last 24 hours, which is the lowest since Jun. 17 last year, when the country documented 10,9374 cases in a single day and far from the nearly 100,000 daily cases recorded in September at the peak of the pandemic. EFE-EPA


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