3 crore people - healthcare and frontline workers - will receive Covid vaccines in the first round (File)The nationwide Covid vaccination drive began a little after 11 am Saturday, with a sanitation worker at Delhi's AIIMS the first person in the country to receive a shot. Earlier Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tribute to frontline workers and healthcare staff playing key roles in the battle to contain the virus. The Prime Minister also cautioned against spreading rumours about the efficacy of the vaccines and warned people to continue following Covid-appropriate behaviour even after receiving the injections. Over the next few days, weeks and months India will carry out one of the world's largest vaccination drives - around 30 crore people will be inoculated against the novel coronavirus. Two vaccines - Covaxin and Covishield - have been cleared for this purpose.Manish Kumar, a sanitation worker at Delhi's AIIMS, was the first person to be vaccinated, with Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan looking on, as part of the national drive. "I was not reluctant to get the vaccine shot... people should not be afraid," he told news agency ANI. AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria and Dr VK Paul, a member of government think-tank NITI Aayog, also received their shots today.Across India doctors, nurses and sanitation workers rolled up their sleeves to get the first Covid vaccine shots in their respective states. In Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, Krishnamma and Puspa Kumari were, respectively, the first to be injected. Telangana Health Minister Etala Rajinder was also among the first to get the vaccine. In Chhattisgarh a 53-year-old sanitation worker - Tulsa Tandi - was the first.
In Tamil Nadu, Dr Prathap C Reddy, the Chairman of Apollo Hospitals, was among 10 senior doctors to be vaccinated. Dr Reddy told NDTV he was "happy" to get the shot and said that it would help him continue doing his regular work. He also said both vaccines were effective, but revealed he had opted for Serum Institute's Covishield.
In Rajasthan Sudhir Bhandari, the Principal of Jaipur's Sawai Man Singh (SMS) Medical College was the first to get the shot, while in Madhya Pradesh, a hospital security guard and an attendant were among the first."Dawai bhi, kadai bhi (yes to vaccine, yes to discipline)," the Prime Minister said Saturday morning, as he cautioned people to maintain protocols - the wearing of face masks, maintaining social distance and washing of hands - even after vaccination. The Prime Minister also urged those getting vaccinated to come back for the second shot.
The Prime Minister also paid tribute to the scientific community in the country, which has been at the forefront of the global fight to study the novel coronavirus and develop viable vaccines. "India is among the few countries which, despite hardship, provided medicines and medical help to over 150 countries," PM Modi said.
Among the southern states, Telangana's 139 centres will vaccinate 4,100 people today. In Tamil Nadu, where senior doctors will be among the first to be vaccinated to dispel rumours, 166 centres will be open today; the state is looking to vaccinate six lakh people in this first phase. In Karnataka 7.17 lakh people across 243 centres will be vaccinated in the first phase, starting with 24,300 on the first day. Kerala will see vaccinations at 133 centres, with 300 frontline workers among the first to get the shot.
In Bihar 300 centres will inoculate 30,000 people today, with around 4.62 lakh to be injected in the first phase. Bengal has set up 210 centres to vaccinate 21,000 people today. Madhya Pradesh has set up 150 centres and hopes to vaccinate 15,000 people today and 57,000 within a week; the first phase target is 4.16 healthcare workers.The government has tried to counter concerns about Covaxin, which has not completed Phase III trials. The drug was cleared in "clinical trial mode" and shots from today's vaccination showed those receiving the Bharat Biotech drug being asked to sign consent forms that assured compensation in case of adverse effects linked to the vaccine.
The coronavirus pandemic, which reached India last January after emerging in China's Wuhan in late 2019, has killed more than 1.5 lakh people in the country so far and infected over 1.05 crore. A hasty lockdown last March that lasted for months battered the economy and exacted a heavy toll on the poor and disadvantaged.
With input from ANI