India will start the first phase of the world’s biggest mass inoculation drive from January 16. The government first plans to vaccinate around three crore health and frontline workers followed by 27 crore people who are above 50 years or those with co-morbidities in the second phase.
Two vaccines were approved earlier this month for emergency use – the Covishield vaccine developed by UK’s Oxford-AstraZeneca and manufactured by Serum Institute of India and, the homegrown Bharat Biotech’ Covaxin vaccine. Both are two-dose vaccines, to be administered at a 28-day gap. The government has initially signed purchase agreements with Serum Institute to buy 1.1 crore doses of the Covishield vaccine at Rs 200/dose and has committed to procure 4.5 crore more doses by April.
For now the systems are being put in place. The production of the vaccine, its transportation to different locations across the country, its safe storage at airports and centres, and the final shots to the masses is being organised. Three phases of dry runs have already been conducted across the country, with the third dry run having been conducted across 615 districts covering 4,895 session sites in 33 states and union territories.
The first rollout of the Covishield vaccine from the Serum Institute’s facility in Pune took place in three temperature-controlled trucks to the city’s airport from where they were loaded into air carriers. Four air carriers – SpiceJet, GoAir, Air India, and Indigo – delivered 56.5 lakh doses to 13 cities across the country and taken to designated national and state-level stores amid tight security. Four main depot points have been set up at Chennai, Karnal, Kolkata, and Mumbai for receiving the vaccine. Besides this, all states have at least one regional vaccine store and some big states such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat etc. have multiple stores.
The government has developed the Co-Win digital platform using its Aadhaar database to track vaccine recipients and ensure a timely second dosage. Once a person is vaccinated, Co-Win will generate a digital vaccination certificate which will be used by the recipient to get a second dose. A final certificate will be issued once both doses have been administered to the person.
Let’s hope that all goes well in our journey to become a COVID-free India!