India Kicks Off A Massive COVID-19 Vaccination Drive
Cheers erupted in hospital wards across India on Saturday as a first group of nurses and sanitation workers rolled up their sleeves and got vaccinated against COVID-19, at the start of what’s likely to become the biggest national vaccination campaign in history.
India aims to vaccinate 300 million people by July, though it could take an additional two or more years to inoculate all nearly 1.4 billion Indians. The shots are voluntary. Hospitals and clinics have been setting up and rehearsing for weeks.
“A proud moment indeed! This is what we’ve been waiting for,” Dr. R. Jayanthi, dean of the Omandurar Medical College in the southern city of Chennai, told local media moments after receiving her shot. “I’m truly a very privileged beneficiary today, and I’m feeling absolutely fine.”
Earlier this month, the Indian government granted emergency authorization to two vaccines — one developed by Oxford University and the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, and a homegrown formula developed by an Indian company, Bharat Biotech. Both are administered in two doses about a month apart.
The latter is still in phase three clinical trials, and full efficacy data is not yet out. Some scientists, public health experts and opposition politicians accuse the government of risking public safety to rush out an indigenously made formula out of national pride. Bharat Biotech and Indian officials insist the formula is safe.