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India’s Covid-19 vaccination drive begins tomorrow: All your questions answered

The world’s biggest inoculation drive against the novel coronavirus will begin Saturday as India starts vaccinating three crore of its frontline workers. In the first phase, two indigenous vaccines, Covaxin and Covishield, will be administered to priority groups. Over one crore and 5.27 lakh people have been infected by the virus in India so far, and close to 1.52 lakh have died.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch the inoculation drive at 10.30 am Saturday by addressing 3,006 vaccination sites across the country via video-conferencing.

Who will receive the Covid-19 vaccine on Saturday?

The priority groups include health workers, safai karmacharis, the Army and disaster management volunteers.

The government has said around 100 people will receive shots at each of the 3,006 vaccination sites in the country on Saturday. The first phase of vaccination is likely to be completed in a few months.

How will the vaccination drive be conducted?

How will the vaccination drive be conducted?

Given India has a population of 130 crore people, the country is drawing on its experiences of holding elections to conduct the vaccine drive. The Ministry of Home Affairs has even requested the Election Commission (EC) to share the latest electoral roll data for Lok Sabha and Legislative Assembly elections to identify people belonging to the priority groups.

The exercise will be conducted for those above the age of 18. Each site, which will function like an election booth does, will have three hard copies of the beneficiary list. These names will also be uploaded by officials to the government’s Co-Win portal — Saturday’s list was uploaded two days in advance.

An official said: “The vaccination session is from 9 am to 5 pm. Whoever comes till 5 pm will be vaccinated even after 5 pm, just like how it happens in elections.”

The Prime Minister has said India will also utilise its experience from the Universal Immunization Programme (UIP) and people’s participation (Jan Bhagidari) in the exercise.

Is the vaccine free?

The vaccines being administered in the first phase will be free. “The Centre will bear the expenses for vaccinating the 3 crore priority population,” PM Narendra Modi had said earlier this week.

What are the two Covid-19 vaccines being administered to Indians?

Two vaccines – Covaxin and Covishield – have been granted approval by India’s drug regulator CDSCO. They have received what is known as a “restricted use approval in an emergency situation”, which means they can be used despite the companies not having completed clinical trials.

Covishield is the Indian variant of AZD1222, the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and University of Oxford. It was developed and manufactured in the country by Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII). Covaxin has been developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the National Institute of Virology.

At present, there are 1.1 crore doses of the Serum Institute and 55 lakh doses of Bharat Biotech vaccine available for administration. Each person is administered two shots of both vaccines, 28 days apart.

Apart from these two, four more indigenous vaccines are in the works.

At a Covid-19 vaccination centre in Mumbai. (Express Photo: Ganesh Shirsekar)

How have the vaccines been distributed across India?

The Centre has decided the distribution strategy among states based on geographic prioritisation, or in areas where “infection prevalence is high”. This means, states like Maharashtra and Kerala, which are reporting the highest daily cases, will likely get more vaccines as compared to other states.

States, in turn, will decide how to distribute the shot at a district level. The distribution at a district level has to be in proportionate to ensure each beneficiary can be administered two doses of the same vaccine.

What happens after you are vaccinated?

As people are vaccinated, their data will be uploaded in real-time on the Co-Win platform. The government plans to use Aadhaar to help in identify and monitoring beneficiaries.

Once vaccinated, the beneficiary will receive a digital certificate. This will help remind him/her when the second dose is to be administered. It will help the government know who has received the dose. After the second dose, a final digital certificate will be generated.

The data on the Co-Win platform will also help in curbing rumours and misinformation about the vaccine and ensuring effective reporting of adverse events, if any, after vaccination.

Preparations underway at Kamala Nehru Hospital for the Covid-19 vaccination drive. (Express Photo: Arul Horizon)

Is India prepared to conduct the Covid-19 vaccination drive?

India has conducted three mock drills in preparation for the vaccine rollout. The nationwide exercise was done to understand the best way to administer the vaccine and plug loopholes in logistics and training.

The government has also created a dedicated 24X7 helpline number — 1075 — to address queries related to the vaccine rollout and the Co-WIN software.

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