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India’s Covid-19 vaccine campaign off to a roaring start

Our Bureau | Updated on January 16, 2021

A health official shows a vaccine dose after the virtual launch of Covid-19 vaccination drive by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in New Delhi, Saturday, January 16, 2021   -  PTI

India will vaccinate around 3 crore people in the first phase, including healthcare & sanitation workers, and police & armed personnel

India on Saturday launched the world’s largest Covid-19 vaccination drive with Prime Minister Narendra Modi exhorting the people not to heed to rumours and propaganda questioning the safety and efficacy of the two made-in-India vaccines.

Scientists have given approval to these vaccines after being convinced about their safety and efficacy, Modi said, while virtually launching what would be the world’s largest adult immunisation ever undertaken in history.

Immediately after the launch, the Covid-19 vaccination commenced across the country. In Delhi, All India Institute of Medical Sciences Director Randeep Guleria, also a member of the national Covid-19 task force, was among the first to receive the vaccine shot. India plans to vaccinate around three crore people in the first phase of the vaccination, which would cover healthcare workers and other frontline corona warriors, including sanitation workers, police and armed personnel.

Slideshow | India: World’s largest Covid-19 vaccination drive underway

As antibodies against the virus would be formed in the body only 14 days after taking the two doses of vaccine nearly a month apart, Modi urged the people to continue to wearing masks and take other Covid-19 appropriate measures even after the first dose is administered.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi virtually launches pan-India rollout of COVID-19 vaccination drive, in New Delhi   -  PTI

India’s drugs regulator gave emergency use authorisation to Covishield, produced by Pune-based Serum Institute of India after securing licence from British pharma company AstraZeneca, and Covaxin, indigenously developed jointly by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech and Indian Council of Medical Research scientists, in the first week of January.

PM Modi addressing frontline workers at a hospital in Delhi during the inauguration of the nationwide Covid-19 vaccination drive starting January 16.   -  Photo: Kamal Narang

However, at least a section of scientific community questioned the hurry in giving the nod to the vaccines, which still haven’t undergone largescale efficacy studies, particularly when Covid-19 cases have been coming down significantly in the country. The daily cases of Covid-19 in the country on Saturday stood at 15,158. That’s six times lower than the highest 97,894 cases recorded exactly four months on September 16. The number of daily cases have been below 20,000 continuously since January 1.

By ensuring that medical workers get the vaccine first, the country is paying tribute to the healthcare workers who worked day and night to save every possible life from the dreadful infection, Modi said. Following one crore healthcare workers from the public and private sectors, two crore other frontline workers, such as police, armed personnel and sanitation workers, would be vaccinated.

Across the country over 3,000 vaccination centres are ready to roll out the vaccination from Saturday. The number of such session sites would be ramped up rapidly to cover more beneficiaries. Each site is expected to handle 100 vaccinations a day. The beneficiaries would be registered using a dedicated vaccine intelligence network, Co-WIN, and they would be tracked for any adverse reaction as well as for alerting them when the second dose is due. Co-WIN will also track availability and usage of vaccines across the country and monitor whether they were preserved at appropriate temperature conditions.

 

Each vaccinated beneficiary would receive a digital certificate which would also mention the date and centre that they have to go to for the second shot. If they miss the appointed date, the beneficiary would be given a fresh date accordingly.

The Prime Minister lauded Indian scientists for developing the two vaccines in the shortest possible time.  More vaccines against Covid-19 are getting ready. “Normally, it takes many years to make a vaccine, but in such a short span of time, not one, but two ‘Made in India’ vaccines are ready. Meanwhile, the work on other vaccines is progressing at a fast pace,” Modi said.

 

Recalling the initial days of the pandemic, Modi said India showed alertness and took the right decisions at the right moments. Similarly, at a time when many countries of the world left their citizens stranded in China, India evacuated not only Indians but citizens of other countries too. He also recalled how India sent a lab to a country that was finding it difficult to test evacuating Indians, Modi said.

According to him, India’s response to the crisis has been acknowledged globally. It was an example of the integrated and united response from the Centre, States, local governments and NGOs who performed efficiently in unison, Modi remarked.

Dr Prathap C Reddy, Founder Chairman, Apollo Hospitals Group being administered Covid-19 vaccine at the hospital in Chennai   -  Photo: Bijoy Ghosh

In Gujarat, top doctors at Ahmedabad’s civil hospital along with former Medical Council of India chairman Ketan Desai, were among the first to receive the Covid-19 vaccine shots on Saturday. The State has been allotted the first lot of 2.76 lakh doses of the Covishield vaccine.

The vaccination kicked off from 161 centres across the State. The State administration is giving a ‘vaccine badge’ as a certificate to each beneficiary getting the jab.

Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel, along with other top state health department officials, were present at the civil hospital to attend the video launch of the nationwide vaccination drive by Modi.

Meanwhile, in Telangana, healthcare worker S Krishnamma became the first person to take the Covid-19 shot. She was administered the first of the two doses at the Gandhi Hospital on Saturday. She was shifted to an observation room set up at the hospital.

Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy and Telangana Health Minister Eatala Rajender were present at the event.

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Addressing a gathering later, Rajender said as many as 139 vaccination centres were set up in the State in the first phase. To begin with, each centre will give vaccines to 30 people.

Telangana was allotted 3.64 lakh doses of Covishield and 20,000 doses of Covaxin.

In Andhra Pradesh, Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy formally inaugurated the Covid-19 vaccination at Government General Hospital, Vijayawada. Andhra Pradesh has a total of 332 locations which would vaccinate about 3.7 lakh healthcare workers over the next 15 days, according to officials.

Vaccination plus special postage stamp launched in Bengaluru

Covid-19 vaccine shot commenced in all the 234 centres in Karnataka with healthcare workers and municipal workers getting the first short.

In Bengaluru, Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa released a special postage stamp after launching the largest Covid-19 vaccine campaign.

Monitored by DCs, ZP CEOs and district health officers, vaccination drive included 10 centres in Bengaluru.

Dr K Sudhakar State Health & Medical Education Minister told reporters private hospitals like St Johns Medical college have also been included in this initiative. Covi-Shield was distributed in 237 centres and Covaxin in six centres in Bellary, Shivamogga, Hassan, Chikmagalur, Chamarajnagar and Davangere.

The minister said a total 7.17 lakh health warriors are being vaccinated in the initial phase. “We are aiming to vaccinate 24,300 people on the first-day itself. We have 8.14 lakh doses of vaccine and the initial phase is expected to complete within a week.”

(With inputs from Ahmedabad, Bengaluru and Hyderabad Bureaus)

Published on January 16, 2021

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