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India Gears up for Rollout of World's Biggest Covid-19 Vaccination Drive, Health Workers to Receive First Shots

Medical staff work inside a Covid-19 vaccination centre in Mumbai on Friday. (AFP)

Medical staff work inside a Covid-19 vaccination centre in Mumbai on Friday. (AFP)

A total of 3,006 session sites across all states and union territories will be virtually connected during the launch at 10.30 am by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and around 100 beneficiaries will be vaccinated at each session site.

India is set to roll out the world's biggest vaccination programme on Saturday with over 3 lakh healthcare workers to be inoculated on the first day of the much-anticipated drive, which the government said is "probably the beginning of the end of COVID-19".

A total of 3,006 session sites across all states and union territories will be virtually connected during the launch at 10.30 am by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and around 100 beneficiaries will be vaccinated at each session site. Jaipur's Sawai Man Singh (SMS) Medical College Principal Sudhir Bhandari will be the first person in Rajasthan to be given the shot, while a hospital security guard and an attender will be among the first to get the jab in Madhya Pradesh. Modi said the country on Saturday would enter a "decisive phase" in the fight against the pandemic.

The Prime Minister's Office has said this will be the world's largest vaccination programme covering the entire length and breadth of the country and all preparations are in place to initiate it on the principles of "Jan Bhagidari".

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On the eve of the commencement of the drive, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan reviewed the preparations and visited the dedicated COVID control room set up at the Nirman Bhawan premises of the health ministry. The drive has been planned in a phased manner, identifying priority groups. Healthcare workers, both in government and private sectors including ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services) workers, will receive the vaccine during this phase, the ministry said in a statement.

Vardhan said India's exercise to vaccinate its population against COVID-19 shall be the largest immunisation drive of the world. He reiterated that both the indigenously manufactured vaccines -- Covishield by Serum Institute of India and COVAXIN of Bharat Biotech -- have proven safety and immunogenicity records and are the most important tools to contain the pandemic.

An online digital platform Co-WIN, developed by the ministry, will be used to drive the vaccination programme. Adequate doses of both Covishield and Covaxin have already been delivered to all states and union territories.

A dedicated 24×7 call centre — 1075 — has also been set up for addressing queries related to the pandemic, vaccine roll-out and the Co-WIN software. According to the government, the shots will be offered first to an estimated one crore healthcare workers, and around two crore frontline workers, and then to persons above 50 years of age, followed by persons younger than 50 years of age with associated comorbidities. The cost of vaccination of healthcare and frontline workers will be borne by the central government.

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In Delhi, the drive will kick off from the state-run LNJP Hospital with a simple ceremony in the presence of Chief Minister Kejriwal and Health Minister Satyendar Jain. A trio of a doctor, nurse and a sanitation worker will receive shots in the presence of Kejriwal, sources said.

The 81 sites named in the national capital for administering the jabs include six central government facilities like AIIMS, Safdarjung Hospital, RML Hospital and Kalawati Saran Children Hospital and two ESI hospitals. Medical superintendents of government hospitals at Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar will be among the first to get the shots in Gujarat, where over 16,000 health workers will be vaccinated during the day, officials said.

In Assam, an estimated 6,500 people of the 1.9 lakh health workers will be vaccinated on the first day. Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal will inaugurate the drive at Assam Medical College Hospital, Dibrugarh, and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma at Gauhati Medical College and Hospital. Former vice-chancellor of Srimanta Sankardeva University of Health Sciences Dr Umesh Chandra Sarma will be the first to receive the initial dose in the state. The other doctors to be vaccinated are Padma Shri awardee and surgeon Dr Ilias Ali, Sahitya Akademi awardee and former principal of Barpeta Medical College and Hospital Dr Dhrubajyoti Borah, GMCH principal Dr Achyut Baishya and its superintendent Dr Abhijeet Sharma.

(With inputs from PTI)

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