India gears up for massive vaccine distribution drive

India gears up for massive vaccine distribution drive

COVID warriors among first in line to receive shots targeting 300 million people

NEW DELHI — With all eyes on its efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, India — the world’s second worst-hit country with over 9.8 million cases — is readying a huge vaccination drive, aiming to inoculate around 300 million people by August 2021.

Among groups being identified for the first shots are 10 million health care providers in the government and private sectors and 20 million other front line workers, such as police and armed forces.

Another 270 million people over the age of 50, along with anybody with associated co-morbidities, are next in line.

“Every single Indian who needs to be vaccinated will be vaccinated,” health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said this week.

Of the nine vaccines currently in different stages of development in the country, six are undergoing clinical trials. These include Covishield from Oxford University and U.S. pharmaceutical AstraZeneca, for which the Serum Institute of India is a manufacturing partner, and Covaxin, India’s first homegrown COVID-19 vaccine made by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research. Trials for the Russian Sputnik V vaccine have also started in the country.