India, which has 1.3 billion people, aims to immunize around 300 million people by July.
India launched one of the world’s largest coronavirus vaccination campaigns on Saturday as the coronavirus pandemic spread at a record rate and the number of COVID-19 deaths worldwide exceeded two million.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who spoke to healthcare workers via video conference, will not immediately take the vaccine himself, as India initially prioritizes nurses, doctors and others in First line.
“We are launching the biggest vaccination campaign in the world and it shows the world our capacity,” Modi said in his speech. He implored citizens to remain vigilant and not to believe any “vaccine safety rumors”.
“Please don’t start to be carefree once you’ve been vaccinated, don’t take off your mask and don’t forget about social distancing,” Modi said.
The pure ladder has its obstacles. For example, India plans to rely heavily on a digital platform to track vaccine shipping and delivery. But public health experts point out that the internet remains spotty in large parts of the country, and some remote villages are completely disconnected.
India agreed to the emergency use of two vaccines: one developed by the University of Oxford and UK drug maker AstraZeneca, and another by Indian company Bharat Biotech on January 4. Cargo planes flew 16.5 million shots to various Indian cities last week.
Health experts fear that the regulatory shortcut taken to approve the Bharat Biotech vaccine without waiting for concrete data showing its effectiveness in preventing coronavirus disease could amplify the reluctance to vaccinate.
At least one state health minister has opposed its use.
India’s health ministry bristled at criticism and said the vaccines were safe, but argues that health workers will have no choice but to decide which one to receive.
According to Dr SP Kalantri – director of a rural hospital in Maharashtra, India’s worst affected state – such an approach was concerning as he said regulatory approval was rushed and not backed by science.
“In a hurry to be populist, the government [is] make decisions that might not be in the best interest of the common man, ”Kalantri said.
Against the backdrop of the rising death toll around the world from COVID-19 – it topped two million on Friday – time is running out to vaccinate as many people as possible. But the campaign has been uneven.
India is second after the United States with 10.5 million confirmed cases, and third in death toll, behind the United States and Brazil, with 152,000.
More than 35 million doses of various COVID-19 vaccines have been administered worldwide, according to the University of Oxford.
While the majority of COVID-19 vaccine doses have already been purchased by wealthy countries, COVAX – a UN-backed project to deliver vaccines to developing regions of the world – found itself running out of vaccines, d money and logistical assistance.
As a result, the chief scientist of the World Health Organization has warned that it is highly unlikely that herd immunity – which would require at least 70% of the planet vaccinated – will be achieved this year. As the disaster demonstrated, it is not enough to just switch off the virus in a few places, experts say.