India will launch its COVID-19 vaccination drive from January 16 in what Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called the world’s largest inoculation programme with priority to be given to nearly three crore healthcare and frontline workers.
The decision, the government said on Saturday, was taken at a high-level meeting where Modi reviewed the status of COVID-19 and vaccine preparedness across states and Union territories.
“After the detailed review, it was decided that in view of the forthcoming festivals including Lohri, Makar Sankranti, Pongal, Magh Bihu etc, the COVID-19 vaccination will start from 16th January 2021,” it said.
After healthcare and frontline workers, priority will be given to those above 50 years of age and the under-50 population groups with co-morbidities, together numbering around 27 crore, a government statement said.
According to the Health Ministry guidelines on COVID-19 vaccination, the latest electoral roll for Lok Sabha and Legislative Assembly elections will be used to identify the population aged 50 years or more.
The Prime Minister said that India will take a landmark step forward in fighting COVID-19 on January 16.
“Starting that day, India’s nationwide vaccination drive begins. Priority will be given to our brave doctors, healthcare workers, frontline workers including Safai Karamcharis (sanitation workers,” Modi tweeted.
The Prime Minister is scheduled to interact with chief ministers of all states via videoconferencing on Monday wherein they will discuss the COVID-19 situation and the vaccination roll-out.
India had recently granted emergency use authorisation to two vaccines, Oxford’s Covishield being manufactured by Serum Institute in India and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin. Both vaccines, the statement from the Health Ministry said, have established safety and immunogenicity.
At least seven other vaccines are being developed in India, while some others can be imported from abroad, including the one developed by global pharma giant Pfizer, which has already applied for import and sale in India of its vaccine for emergency use authorisation.
There are 2,24,190 active cases of coronavirus infection in the country which constitutes 2.16 per cent of the total caseload so far of over 1.04 crore, according to the latest Health Ministry data. More than 1.5 lakh people have died so far. However, the spread of the virus has lessened in a big way in the country as the daily number of new cases has dropped to less than 20,000 from a peak of almost 98,000 in September last year.
However, the overall caseload for India is the second highest in the world after the US, which has reported more than 2 crore cases so far – almost double of India’s cumulative tally.
In terms of deaths also, the US has recorded the most at nearly 3.7 lakh, followed by over 2 lakh in Brazil and about 1.5 lakh in India. However, India tops the global charts for recovery with more than 1 crore having recuperated after contracting the deadly virus.
Many countries have launched mass vaccination programmes to protect their people from the deadly virus, which was first detected in China in December 2019 and has killed nearly 20 lakh people globally and infected almost 9 crore people since then.