Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday launched the country’s vaccination drive against the novel coronavirus via video conferencing.
Billed as the world’s largest vaccination program, covering the entire length and breadth of the country, the drive aims to first inoculate millions of its healthcare and frontline workers and reach an estimated 3 crore people by the end of its first phase. A total of 3006 session sites across all states and union territories will be virtually connected during the launch. Around 100 beneficiaries will be vaccinated at each session site on an inaugural day, the union health ministry has said.
In the first phase government and private-sector health care workers, including Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) workers, will receive the vaccine.
Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan on Friday termed the country’s vaccination drive as the “beginning of the end of Covid-19.” He also urged people to trust the indigenously manufactured vaccine, saying the government has given emergency use approval after proper scientific scrutiny.
In the next phases of the vaccination drive, people aged over 50, and those who are below 50 years but have serious health conditions or co-morbidities will be vaccinated, according to the health ministry.
Dry-runs at vaccination centres across the country have been held with lakhs of healthcare staff across districts being trained.
The drugs regulatory body of India has currently approved two vaccines. Pune-based Serum Institute of India has developed the Covishield vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University while the Covaxin has been developed by Hyderabad’s Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Medical Council of research (ICMR) and National Institute of Virology.
The vaccination programme in the country will use Co-WIN (Covid Vaccine Intelligence Work), an online digital platform developed by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, which will facilitate real-time information of vaccine stocks, storage temperature and individualized tracking of beneficiaries for COVID-19 vaccine. This digital platform will assist programme managers across all levels while conducting vaccination sessions.
A dedicated 24×7 call centre – 1075 – has also been established for addressing the queries related to Covid-19 pandemic, vaccine rollout and the Co-WIN software.
The full initial procurement amount of 1.65 crore doses of Covishield and Covaxin vaccines against Covid-19 have been allocated to all States/UTs in the proportion of Health Care Workers database, Union Health Ministry stated.
India reported 15,158 new COVID-19 cases, 16,977 discharges and 175 deaths in the last 24 hours, as per the Union Health Ministry’s data on Saturday. The cumulative caseload in the country reached 1,05,42,841 including 2,11,033 active infections and 1,01,79715 recoveries. The death toll has climbed to 1,52,093.
In the national capital Delhi, the drive is launched from the state-run LNJP Hospital by Chief Minister Kejriwal and Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain. Healthcare workers will get the jab in a total of 81 centres. The Union health minister will visit the new OPD Wing of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi to witness the launch of the inoculation drive. He will join doctors and around 100 potential vaccine beneficiaries at the centre.
Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday received the first batch of Covishield from Serum Institute of India (SII), Pune. As many as 1,46,500 doses of the Covishield vaccine have been received out of which 79,000 are for the Kashmir division and 67,500 are for the Jammu division. Choppers were used to transport the vaccines to far-flung snow-capped areas. The vaccine is being stored at the Divisional cold chain stores at Jammu and Kashmir divisions from where it will be distributed to all districts maintaining the cold chain at all levels. Vaccination would begin today at 30 centres across the Union territory.