India has launched a vaccination program on one of the world’s largest vaccines, the first major developing country to produce the vaccine, which has begun efforts to vaccinate more than 1.3 billion people.
The first dose was given to a health worker at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi, after which Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the campaign with a national television speech.
“We are launching the world’s largest vaccination campaign and it shows the world our potential,” Modi said. He urged citizens to be vigilant and not to rely on “any rumors about vaccine safety”.
It is not clear whether the 70-year-old Modi has been vaccinated like other world leaders as an example of his safety. His government has said that politicians will not be considered a priority group in the first phase of the rollout.
India has more than 10.5 million cases of corona virus, the second largest in the world and 151,000 deaths. The government has been preparing a rollout of the vaccine for weeks, and in the last few days the consignment has been sent to more than 3,000 injection sites.
The Indian Ministry of Health has prepared plans for 300 million people, almost equal to the US population, who will be vaccinated by August. Preference is given to frontline healthcare workers, police and the military, who are over 50 years of age and in partnership to follow it, at no cost. Maharashtra, located in Mumbai and the state with the highest incidence of corona virus, plans to vaccinate 50,000 healthcare workers on the first day of the vaccine rollout.
More than 200,000 vaccinators and 370,000 team members have been trained to roll out across the country. Large-scale trial runs have been conducted in at least four states, and authorities have developed 29,000 units of cold storage for the transport and transfer of immunizations.
Two vaccines have been given emergency approval for India’s immunization program. The Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine, known in India as CowShield, and a home-made product, Covacin, manufactured by pharmaceutical company Bharat Biotech.
The approval of the Indian Biotech vaccine, released in collaboration with an Indian government agency, has proved controversial. The vaccine is still in stage 3 human trials and a complete dataset of its efficacy has not been released or peer-reviewed, as opposed to the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine or the Pfizer and modern vaccine available in the UK and US. Are authorized
India’s Drug Controller General, VG Somani, insisted that Kovacson was “100% safe”.
The government has ordered 5.5 million doses of Kovacin and 11 million doses of Kovachield. The message was sent to the CowShield cells that “all diseases can be cured”.
Importantly, for ease of availability and low cost, both vaccines will be developed locally. The Serum Institute of India, one of the world’s largest vaccine makers, has already developed and stored 50 million doses of CoveShield.
The institute has billions of orders from around the world who are also anxious for the vaccine. The Indian government is discussing how much stock to issue for export, amid fears that it could lead to domestic shortages.
The government faces another challenge from the growing opposition to vaccines in India. According to a survey of more than 8,000 people conducted by local circles, 69% of Indians are reluctant to get vaccinated.
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