The first COVID-19 vaccine shots in India were given on Saturday to nearly two lakh frontline healthcare and sanitary workers as Prime Minister Narendra Modi rolled out the world's largest inoculation drive against the pandemic that has caused 1,52,093 deaths and upended millions of lives in the country. As Modi asserted that the two vaccines being deployed will ensure a decisive victory for India against the coronavirus, the Union Health Ministry said no case of post-inoculation hospitalisation has been reported so far and the vaccination drive was successful. Sanitation workers were the first to get the jabs in Delhi and some states.
Over 1.91 lakh beneficiaries were inoculated with COVID-19 jabs at 3,351 session sites across the country and no case of post-inoculation hospitalisation has been reported so far, the government said. The was successfully conducted on the first day, Additional Secretary in the Union health ministry Manohar Agnani said at a press briefing.
"A total of 3,351 sessions were held wherein 1,91,181 beneficiaries were vaccinated, as per provisional reports," he said. A total of 16,755 personnel were involved in organising the vaccination sessions, he added.
The 11 states and union territories where both Covishield and Covaxin were administered were Assam (65 sessions), Bihar (301), Delhi (81), Haryana (77), Karnataka (242), Maharashtra (285), Odisha (161), Rajasthan (167), Tamil Nadu (160), Telangana (14) and Uttar Pradesh (317).
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the vaccination drive while reassuring the country that emergency use authorisation was given to two 'made in India' vaccines only after scientists were convinced of their safety and effectiveness, and urged people to beware of propaganda and rumours.
More than one crore cases and 1.5 lakh fatalities later, India took its first steps out of the pandemic with shots of the Covishield and Covaxin vaccines being administered at medical centres. Sanitation worker Manish Kumar became the first recipient of vaccine at Delhi's All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), according to the ministry.
Of the first day beneficiaries, 2,897 were in Jharkhand, 12,637 in Karnataka, 7,206 in Kerala, 6,739 in Madhya Pradesh, 510 in Manipur, 509 in Meghalaya, 314 in Mizoram, 499 in Nagaland, 8,675 in Odisha, 206 in Puducherry, 1,200 in Punjab, 9,279 in Rajasthan, 120 in Sikkim, 2,728 in Tamil Nadu, 3,600 in Telangana, 266 in Tripura, 15,975 in Uttar Pradesh, 2,226 in Uttarakhand and 9,578 in West Bengal.
A scene of joy and excitement was witnessed at medical centres with the beneficiaries being administered the Covishield and Covaxin vaccines less than a year after India recorded the first coronavirus case in Kerala on January 30, 2020.
Kumar, who works at the AIIMS along with his mother Laxmi Rani, said he was not at all nervous and was "proud of getting the vaccine" as speculation swirled in some quarters about safety levels of Covaxin administered to him in the presence of Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan. Kumar said many of the staff who were vaccinated were scared. "So I went to my seniors and said I should be given the vaccine first. I wanted to prove to my colleagues that there is no need to be scared," he said.
Injecting confidence in people, several high-profile persons, including AIIMS director Randeep Guleria, NITI Aayog member VK Paul, who is also head of an empowered group on medical equipment and management plan to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, Serum Institute of India(SII) CEO Adar Poonawallah, West Bengal minister Nirmal Maji, BJP MP Mahesh Sharma, a doctor by profession, Apollo Hospitals Group Chairman Dr Prathap C Reddy and Manipal Hospitals Chairman Sudarshan Ballal received their first shot of the two-dose vaccine. Senior doctors received the first shot at many identified vaccination sites to dispel any apprehensions about the vaccine.
Vardhan said the two vaccines -- Covaxin developed by Bharat Biotech and Covishield from the Oxford/AstraZeneca stable manufactured by the SII -- were a 'sanjivani', life infusing, in the fight against the pandemic.
India has the second highest recorded cases of COVID-19 after the US. The caseload stood at 1,05,42,841 as on Saturday. Health workers who got their first shots of Covaxin at AIIMS were made to sign a consent form that promised compensation in case of a "severe adverse event" related to the vaccine.
Covaxin has demonstrated the ability to produce antibodies against COVID-19 in phase one and phase two trials. "However, the clinical efficacy is yet to be established and it is still being studied in phase 3 clinical trial," the form read.
Hence, it is important to appreciate that receiving the vaccine does not mean that other precautions related to COVID-19 need not be followed, it said. In his address, Prime Minister Modi reminded people that two doses of the vaccine are very important and asked them to continue with masks and social distancing even after receiving the jabs.
The cost of vaccination of healthcare and frontline workers will be borne by the central government.
(With inputs from PTI)