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India launched one of the world’s largest coronavirus vaccination programs on Saturday in hopes of ending a pandemic that killed 150,000 people in the country and torpedoed the economy.

AFP is investigating the numbers involved in the huge and complex company, compounded by weak infrastructure, online hoaxes, and concerns that one of the vaccines is already being rolled out in clinical trials.

300 million people

India plans to vaccinate around a quarter of the population or 300 million people in the coming months. This includes healthcare workers, those over 50, and those at high risk.

On the first day, around 300,000 people should be vaccinated in 300 centers. Approximately 150,000 employees in 700 districts have been trained to manage shock and keep records.

The government intends to digitally manage the entire process with their own app, CoWIN, which links each vaccine dose to its recipient.

45,000 fridges (and a bike)

India has four “mega-depots” where vaccines are picked up and transported to government distribution centers in temperature-controlled vans, with doses below 8 degrees Celsius (46.4 Fahrenheit).

A total of 29,000 cold chain points, 240 walk-in refrigerators, 70 walk-in freezers, 45,000 ice-lined refrigerators, 41,000 freezers and 300 solar refrigerators are available.

These will be needed as soon as the Indian summer arrives in the coming months.

A shipment of sham vaccines delivered by bicycle was photographed in a recent practice run in a rural area.

Three seconds

In order to prevent one of the vials from being stolen and sold on the large Indian black market for drugs, the authorities are taking no chances. The armed police guard every truck.

CCTVs are present in warehouses whose entry is subject to fingerprint authentication. Automated data loggers monitor the storage temperature and, according to the Times of India, transmit messages to a central unit every three seconds.

“Security measures are essential to not only address the problem of logistics and safety, but also to build people’s confidence that the supply chain is intact, uninterrupted and secure right through to delivery,” Preeti Kumar, a public health specialist, told AFP.

200 rupees per dose

India has initially ordered 11 million doses of Covishield, AstraZeneca’s vaccine from the Indian Serum Institute, at 200 rupees ($ 2.74) each and 5.5 million doses of Covaxin at 206 rupees each.

Bharat Biotech’s Indian government “emergency clearance” for Covaxin has worried some doctors as Phase 3 human trials are still ongoing.

With Covaxin still in “clinical trial mode”, the Indians who were shot Saturday were given a consent form to sign, which made it clear that its “clinical efficacy … has not yet been established”.

Authorities say people are given two doses of one of the vaccines 28 days apart – rather than one at a time. It is said to be effective 14 days after the second shot.

Serum later plans to sell the batch privately to Indian individuals and companies for Rs 1,000 ($ 14), raising fears that the rich will be vaccinated sooner.

69 percent without hurry

A recent poll of 18,000 people across India found that 69 percent were in no rush to get a COVID-19 shot, in part due to the public skepticism generated by online disinformation.

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan took to social media Thursday to clear up some of the doubts.

“There is no scientific evidence that #COVIDVaccine could cause infertility in men or women. Please do not heed such rumors or information from unverified sources,” he said in a tweet.

And a Brazilian plane

Other developing countries are betting on India for vaccines, and Brazil wanted to send a plane to India this weekend to collect two million doses of serum.

But President Jair Bolsonaro said Friday that “political pressure” from India had postponed the flight. Serum boss Adar Poonawalla told the Times of India that they would be delivering to Brazil in two weeks.

India plans to offer 20 million cans to its neighbors, with the first batches shipping in the next two weeks, Bloomberg News reported. Next up are Latin America, Africa, and the former Soviet republics.

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