Coronavirus LIVE Updates: India Begins World's Biggest Covid-19 Vaccination Drive Today, Health Workers to Receive First Shots

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Coronavirus LIVE Updates: India is set to roll out the world's biggest vaccination programme today 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". 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.