INDIAN Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday(16) launched one of the world’s largest vaccination campaigns, as part of efforts by the populous nation to bring the Covid-19 pandemic under control starting with two locally-manufactured shots.
Modi asserted that the made-in-India vaccines will ensure a ‘decisive victory’ for the country over the coronavirus pandemic.
On the first day, around 100 people will be voluntarily vaccinated in each of the 3,006 centres in the country, the government said.
Addressing the nation ahead of the launch, Modi reminded people that two doses of vaccine are very important and asked them to maintain wearing masks and social distancing even after receiving the jabs.
During his speech, Modi turned emotional as he spoke of the disruption the pandemic caused to people’s lives, isolating victims of the coronavirus and denying the dead traditional last rites.
He also referred to sacrifices made by healthcare and frontline workers, hundreds of whom lost their lives to the virus.
He also urged the country to show patience during the vaccination drive as it had shown till now in fighting the pandemic.
“Our vaccination programme is driven by humanitarian concerns, those exposed to maximum risk will get priority,” he said.
The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) had earlier this month approved Oxford Covid-19 vaccine Covishield, manufactured by the Serum Institute, and indigenously developed Covaxin of Bharat Biotech for restricted emergency use in the country.
According to the government, the shots will be offered first to an estimated 10 million healthcare workers, and around 20 million frontline workers, and then to persons above 50 years of age, followed by persons younger than 50 years of age with associated comorbidities.
India, which has reported the highest number of coronavirus infections after the US, wants to vaccinate around 300 million people with two doses in the first six to eight months of the year.
Some 10.5 million people in India have been infected with the coronavirus, more than 151,000 of whom have died, though the rate of cases has come down since a mid-September peak.
The government has already bought 11 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVISHIELD shot, produced by the Serum Institute of India, and 5.5 million of Bharat Biotech’s COVAXIN.
COVISHIELD is 72 per cent effective, according to the Indian drug regulator, while Bharat Biotech says COVAXIN’s last-stage trial results are expected by March.