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COVID-19: First jab today as mother of all vaccine drives begins


NEW DELHI:  India will roll out the world’s biggest vaccination programme on Saturday by inoculating over three lakh healthcare workers against Covid-19, which brought the entire country, and the world, to a halt for much of last year.  A total of 3,006 vaccination centres across all states and union territories will be virtually connected as Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch the drive at 10.30 am, with 100 beneficiaries getting the shots at each site on the first day.

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PM Modi said the country will enter a “decisive phase” in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic on Saturday. Amid concerns over the efficacy of the indigenously developed Covaxin vaccine by Bharat Biotech, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan on Friday reiterated that both Covaxin and Covishield, manufactured by Pune-based Serum Institute, have “proven safety and immunogenicity records”.

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These two vaccines will be the “most important tool” to control the pandemic, he added. “Tomorrow is an important day... it is the last phase of the battle against coronavirus. This is probably the beginning of the end of Covid,” he said.  The minister, however, cautioned that even after vaccination, people should not lower their guard and must follow Covid-appropriate behaviour.  

The immunisation drive will begin with healthcare workers, both in government and private sectors, getting the shots. While reviewing the preparation of the launch, Vardhan suggested that the CoWIN software be pre-populated with non-prioritised beneficiaries by seeding it with electoral database, in addition to other documents for registration. 

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CoWIN, short for Covid Vaccine Intelligence Network, is an online platform meant to facilitate real-time information of vaccine stocks, storage temperature and individualised tracking of beneficiaries for Covid-19 vaccine. It will also assist programme managers track beneficiary coverage, beneficiary dropouts, sessions planned versus sessions held and vaccine utilisation. The minister also advised the administrative machinery to go all out to counter the misinformation campaign being spread by vested interests, said a statement by the ministry.