About 300,000 people are set to be vaccinated in India Saturday as the country launches what Prime Minister Narendra Modi is calling the largest immunization drive in the world.
Indian officials are preparing to administer the first round of Covid-19 vaccinations on Saturday morning at more than 3,000 sites set up across the country, which is home to more than 1.3 billion people. Each site is expected to vaccinate about 100 people.
The vaccines will be rolled out in phases, with health care workers getting the vaccine first, Modi announced Saturday.
Modi addressed the nation via video conference to officially launch the first phase of the national rollout, which the government says will ultimately see 30 million health care and frontline workers vaccinated for free.
"With the courage you have shown to combat coronavirus, the same courage is required during the vaccination process,” Modi said.
“Today’s first vaccine being given to someone associated with the healthcare system is a way of the society paying back the debt they owe to them."
He asked the public to avoid rumors around the vaccines' efficacy, and to continue being cautious even after they had received a shot.
Two vaccines: The Indian government issued emergency approval to two vaccines earlier this month -- one from Oxford University/AstraZeneca and the other from Covaxin, which was developed locally by Indian biotech company Bharat Biotech and a government-run institute.
Recipients will not be able to choose which vaccine they receive.
Batches of both vaccines were prepared and shipped across the country this week. India has conducted multiple dry runs for the vaccination drive since December to ensure smooth delivery.
India has reported the second-most coronavirus cases in the world after the United States, with more than 10.5 million confirmed cases and more than 152,000 related deaths.