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India’s herculean task of vaccinating 1.3 billion people begins this week

by Tom

PM Narendra Modi’s government aims to vaccinate 300 million people before July. 

By Tom McLean

An Indian foreign ministry official has confirmed the country’s plans to rollout exports of their domestically produced COVID-19 vaccines, after a run of domestic vaccinations.  The official, who requested to remain anonymous, relayed this information to the BBC.

Following initial reports that suggested India would prohibit exports of the vaccine, this news comes as a relief for neighboring countries, like Nepal and Bangladesh, who remain largely reliant on India’s vaccine output.  Exports are expected to begin in mid-to-late January. 

Two vaccines have been greenlit for production and distribution in India. The first, known as Covishield, was developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca and is being manufactured locally by the Serum Institute of India.

The other, known as Covaxin, was developed indigenously by biotechnology company Bharat Biotech, alongside the National Institute of Virology.

The rapid approval of this domestically developed vaccine has raised concerns among health experts. Limited efficacy data and a lack of transparency have some specialists believing that the vaccine may have been approved prematurely. Only time will tell whether or not Covaxin is as effective and safe as promoted. 

Update as of 11th January 2021. 

Reports have confirmed that India has finally set the 16th of January as the date for the rollout of the coronavirus vaccination. After a crucial meeting on Saturday, PM Narendra Modi and his government have confirmed that they were going ahead with the biggest coronavirus vaccination programme in the world. This announcement comes shortly after the Health Ministry released a bulletin announcing that over 10 million Indian citizens have been diagnosed with COVID-19. 

The first phase of the vaccine will give priority to frontline workers such as healthcare workers, educators, and police. The government aims to vaccinate 300 million individuals by July, before giving individuals in high-risk groups the opportunity to be vaccinated.

Many news outlets report that India is well on its way to becoming a hub for vaccine development, with New Delhi playing a critical role in the global inoculation programme against COVID-19. Nations such as Brazil, Nepal, Myanmar, and South Africa have already made announcements seeking India-made vaccines.

As PM Modi stated during his address at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas this weekend, “India used to import PPE kits, masks, ventilators and testing kits from outside but today our nation is self-reliant. Today, India is ready to save humanity with two ‘Made in India’ coronavirus vaccines.”

Photo: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz

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