New Delhi, Jan 16 (efe-epa).- India on Saturday launched what has been dubbed as the world’s largest vaccination campaign against Covid-19, with some 3,000 centers in the country looking to administer the first dose to more than 300,000 health workers on its first day.
The campaign, which began in all states and territories of the country, was launched in the morning by Prime Minister Narendra Modi via video conference from New Delhi.
“The whole country has waited for this day. For months, children, youth and old men had been wondering when the corona vaccine will come. Now it has come, and in a very short time. In a few minutes, the world’s largest vaccine drive is going to start in India,” Modi said at the launch.
At 11.14 am (05:44 GMT), a sanitation worker at the AIIMS public hospital in the Indian capital received the first vaccine of the campaign in the presence of Health Minister Harsh Vardhan.
“A campaign of this nature has never happened before,” Modi said, in reference to the challenges of covering all citizens in the world’s second-most-populated country with 1.35 billion people.
A total 3,006 vaccination centres have been set up, with each one expected to administer the first dose to around 100 public and private sector health workers, who were given priority in phase one of the campaign, on the first day.
In the first phase of the drive, around 10 million health workers will be inoculated, followed by 20 million workers in the first line of defense against the pandemic and workers in essential services, and then some 270 million people aged above 50 or those with chronic illnesses.
This first group of 300 million people, nearly a quarter of India’s population, is expected to be covered by July this year.
The vaccines used in the campaign are Covishield, a vaccine jointly developed by Oxford University and the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, and Covaxin, developed by the Indian laboratory Bharat Biotech and the Indian Medical Research Council.
The government has so far purchased some 17 million doses: 10.5 million of Covishield – manufactured in the country by the Serum Institute of India – and 6.6 million Covaxin.
Both obtained permission from the Drug Controller General of India for “emergency use” two weeks ago, even though Covaxin is still in the trial phase and the final data on its effectiveness has not yet been released.
“Usually it takes years to make a vaccine, but in so short a time, not one but two “Made in India” vaccines have been made. Work is underway on other vaccines too,” Modi said in his address.
Vaccination centers, which depend on a complex distribution network, will now be interconnected with a central monitoring station in New Delhi from where the Ministry of Health will ensure compliance with protocols, including-cold chain storage facilities.
The government-designed Co-Win digital platform will provide real-time information on vaccine stocks and temperature-related information from all warehouses, while also identifying each vaccine recipient and sending a message with the time and venue for the inoculation.
India has been recording a sharp decline in daily cases, which dropped below 20,000 in the last week against the nearly 100,000 infections per day during the peak in September.
But it remains the world’s second worst-affected country with 10.5 million total infections and more than 150,000 deaths. EFE-EPA