Inoculation of health workers began in India on 16th January 2021 which marked the beginning of the biggest vaccination drive in the world. With the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, India joins the ranks of other rich nations where the effort is already ongoing.
In this first phase of the vaccination drive, Indian authorities aim to vaccinate 300 million people by July 2021 which will include 30 million health care and front-line workers to be followed by 270 million people who are above 50 years or have comorbidities that make them more vulnerable to this virus. The authorities plan to use the voter rolls to identify citizens by age for vaccination.
The Indian government, earlier this month granted emergency authorization to use two vaccines- Covishield, developed by Oxford University and the pharma giant, AstraZeneca. The second vaccine called as Covaxin has been developed in India by Bharat Biotech. Both vaccines are to be given in two doses with a gap of 28 days. People are being advised to continue using mask even after getting vaccinated as antibodies will develop only after two weeks of administering the second dose.
There have been certain apprehensions about the use of Bharat Biotech’s vaccine as many believe that a regulatory shortcut was taken to get this vaccine approved and also there is no concrete data to show its efficacy. The health ministry has brushed-off criticism and said that the vaccine is safe to use. The ministry has also said that there would be no choice given on vaccines, people will be administered according to the availability. However, one needs to take two doses of the same vaccine.
The first day of inoculation saw hundreds of healthcare workers lined up across the country to get their first shot. The first jab in the country was administered to a sanitation worker at AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences), New Delhi after the Prime Minister Narendra Modi through a televised speech kick-started the campaign.
Prime Minister Modi said that the country is launching the biggest COVID-19 vaccination drive in the world which shows the capability of the nation. He also emphasized that citizens still need to follow all COVID-19 protocols including wearing masks and social distancing. He also added that citizens should not believe in any rumors about the safety of the vaccines as they are safe.
A COVID-19 vaccination drive at such a big scale has its obstacles and early-stage snags as India plans to rely on a digital platform, CoWin specially developed for this campaign. For instance, a delay was observed in uploading the details of the health care workers getting the shot to the digital platform.
For frontline and health care workers who have faced the maximum brunt of this pandemic, the start of this vaccination campaign has given them confidence that life will return to normal soon. The first day saw cheers erupting in hospital wards across the country as first group of doctors, nurses, and sanitation workers rolled up their sleeves to take the jab. This proud moment was captured extensively by the Indian media. According to health ministry data on the first day 165,714 people were inoculated.
Although India has the second-highest tally in the world on the number of confirmed coronavirus cases after the United States, its mortality rate has been lower than many other nations. Some experts believe that it could be because half the country’s population is below 25 years of age. However, vaccinating 1.3 billion would be a huge exercise but Indian authorities are exhibiting confidence and plans to use their experience in eradicating polio.