India rolls out world's largest Covid vaccination drive
Publish- January 16, 2021, 01:10 PM
S Kumar - UNB Delhi Correspondent
Update- January 16, 2021, 02:29 PM
India Saturday rolled out the world's largest Covid-19 inoculation drive, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging citizens not to pay heed to rumours regarding the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.
The pan-India rollout of the vaccination drive, which aims at eventually inoculating the country's 1.3 billion people against coronavirus, was inaugurated by Modi virtually. "We are launching the world's biggest vaccination drive and it shows the world our capability," he said, in his address to the nation.
Sanitation and health workers were among the first to receive the Covid vaccine across the country. In the national capital, the head of the country's premier hospital, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), was the first to get a shot in the presence of Indian Health Minister Harsh Vardhan to instill confidence among people about the safety of the vaccines.
In the first phase, some three crore healthcare and other frontline workers -- called 'Covid Warriors' -- are to get the vaccines for free. In the next phase, those above 50 years and those under 50 with serious underlying health conditions will get the shots. "In the second phase, 30 crore people will be vaccinated," the Prime Minister said.
Two 'Made in India' jabs, one developed by the Serum Institute of India (SII) in collaboration with Oxford University and AstraZeneca, and the other by Bharat Biotech, are being given.
Local TV channels beamed footage of Covid warriors queuing up at hospitals across the country to take the jab after signing a consent form. All these hospitals have kept at least 20 intensive care unit beds and an emergency ward doctor ready to deal with any "adverse impact" cases, a top health hospital told the media.
The Indian Prime Minister also cautioned people against falling for propaganda over vaccines. "The Drug Controller General of India gave approval after they were satisfied with the data of the two vaccines. So stay away from rumours. Our vaccine developers have a global credibility. Life-saving vaccines given to 60% children globally are made in India."
He, however, urged people to continue adhering to Covid protocols. "Vaccine as well as discipline (is needed) should be our new motto, Modi said. "India's vaccines are developed in a way keeping in mind the conditions of the country. They will give a decisive victory to our country," he stressed.
After the US, India has recorded the second-highest number of Covid infections in the world. However, of late, the infection rate has fallen sharply, which many experts have attributed to development of herd immunity against Covid.