New Delhi, Jan 16, 2021: The nationwide COVID-19 vaccination drive will be launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at 10:30 am today, setting off India on the path towards overcoming the pandemic that has upended lives, ravaged the economy and unleashed unprecedented suffering over the last 12 months.
One of the world’s biggest vaccination programmes aimed at inoculating 3 crore health and other frontline workers first, it will use shots manufactured in India - one developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, the other by Bharat Biotech with the country’s top clinical research body.
Over 3 lakh healthcare workers are set to be inoculated on the first day of the long-awaited vaccination drive which Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan marks "probably the beginning of the end" of COVID-19.
Some 3,000 sites across all states and union territories will open their doors for the launch via video-conference by PM Modi this morning and around 100 people will be vaccinated at each session site.
Jaipur’s Sawai Man Singh (SMS) Medical College Principal Sudhir Bhandari will be the first person in Rajasthan to be given the shot, while in Madhya Pradesh, a hospital security guard and an attendant will be among the first to get the jab, officials of these states said on Friday.
"Tomorrow, January 16, India begins the pan-India rollout of COVID-19 Vaccination drive. The launch will take place at 10:30 AM tomorrow morning," PM Modi tweeted on Friday. He had said the country would enter a "decisive phase" in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic with vaccination drive.
Minister Harsh Vardhan reviewed the preparations on Friday and reiterated that both the vaccines - Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covishield made by Serum Institute of India and Covaxin of Bharat Biotech, have proven safety and immunogenicity records.
The vaccination drive has been planned in a phased manner, identifying priority groups and informing candidates via phones. Healthcare workers, both in government and private sectors will receive the vaccine during this phase, the health ministry said in a statement.
According to the government, the shots will be offered first to an estimated one crore healthcare workers, and around two crore frontline workers, and then to persons above 50 years of age, followed by persons younger than 50 years of age with associated comorbidities.
About 1.5 lakh staff in 700 districts have been specially trained, and several national dry runs involving mock transportation of vaccines and dummy injections have been held to tackle the colossal and complex task compounded by safety worries, shaky infrastructure, and public scepticism.
The government has worked hard to counter concerns raised by health experts and the opposition about Covaxin which has not completed Phase 3 trials under which the efficacy of the drug is tested.
The coronavirus pandemic, which reached India last January after emerging in China’s Wuhan in late 2019, has killed more than 1.5 lakh people in the country so far and infected over 1.05 crore. A hasty lockdown last March that lasted for months battered the economy and exacted a heavy toll on the poor and disadvantaged.