PUNE, India – India on Saturday launched one of the most ambitious and complex initiatives in its history: rolling out coronavirus vaccines nationwide to 1.3 billion people, a company that stretches from the dangerous regions of the Himalayas to the thick jungles of the Country will extend southern tip.

The campaign takes place in a country that has reported more than 10.5 million coronavirus infections, the second largest case number after the United States, and 152,093 deaths, the third highest number in the world.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi kicked off the vaccination campaign with a live televised address on Saturday when 3,000 centers across the country were due to vaccinate an initial round of healthcare workers. Around 300,000 people should receive the vaccines on Saturday alone, followed by millions of other healthcare workers and on the front lines by spring.

“Everyone was asking when the vaccine will be available,” Modi said. “It is available now. I congratulate all compatriots on this opportunity. “

At Kamala Nehru Hospital in Pune, a city of about 3.1 million southeast of Mumbai, 100 long-stemmed red roses were neatly stacked on a table next to a bottle of hand sanitizer, one for each person who registers for the Covishield vaccine developed by AstraZeneca was and Oxford University and made by the Serum Institute of India in Pune.

Covishield and another vaccine called Covaxin were approved for emergency use in India this month.

Neither the maker of Covaxin, Bharat Biotech, nor the Indian Council for Medical Research, which helped develop the vaccine, have released any data to show that it works. In a Covaxin consent form at District Hospital Aundh, one of the few locations in Pune where the vaccine was administered, the manufacturer stated that clinical efficacy has “not yet been proven”.

Dr. Rajashree Patil, one of the health workers who received the Covishield vaccine at Kamala Nehru Hospital, said she was both excited and nervous. After contracting the coronavirus in the government hospital emergency room in May, she spent 12 days in a Covid ward at another hospital after losing her sense of smell and taste and suffering from extreme fatigue.

“I’m a little worried. We are actually on a trial basis, ”said Dr. Patil. “But I’m glad we’re getting it so that one day we can be corona free.”

Another doctor who received the Covishield shock at that hospital, anesthesiologist Usha Devi Bharmal, said she wanted a shot to allay people’s fears about coronavirus vaccines. “There are rumors on social media,” she said, hoping to show that vaccines are a “positive thing”.

Mr. Modi has pledged to vaccinate 300 million health care workers and frontline workers, including police officers and in some cases teachers, by July. However, so far the Indian government has only bought 11 million doses of Covishield and 5.5 million doses of Covaxin.

Indian TV channels showed that Dr. Randeep Guleria, the director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi and a prominent government advisor on Covid-19, received a stab on Saturday. It was unclear whether Mr Modi had been vaccinated.

India’s launch is among the first in a major developing country as millions of people in the US, UK, Israel, Canada and the European Union have received at least one dose.

India’s vaccination efforts face a number of obstacles, including a growing sense of complacency with the coronavirus. After a peak of more than 90,000 new cases per day was reached in mid-September, the country’s official infection rates have fallen sharply. According to a New York Times database, deaths have fallen about 30 percent in the past 14 days.

There is a lot of activity in the streets of the city. Air and train travel were resumed. Social distancing and mask-wearing standards, which are already sloppy in many parts of India, have continued to fall. That alarms experts who say the actual infection rate is likely much worse than the official figures suggest.

Doubts about the effectiveness of the vaccines make the mission even more difficult.

At least one state, Chhattisgarh, has refused to accept shipments of the vaccine, which is still in the final study. And just a few days ago, one of India’s top virologists was debating whether to give him a push.

“There is really no lack of confidence in the vaccine,” said virologist Dr. Gagandeep Kang. “It’s a lack of confidence in a process that has allowed the vaccine to move forward like this. If my vaccination convinced other people to take the vaccine, I would think that is not right. “


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