India begins airlift of coronavirus vaccines

Reuters
Indian airlines started delivering batches of COVID-19 vaccines across the country on Tuesday, getting ready for the launch of a campaign to offer shots to 1.3 billion people.
Reuters
India begins airlift of coronavirus vaccines
AFP

Health workers prepare to carry boxes of the Covishield coronavirus vaccine to a cold-storage unit at the Regional Vaccine Storage center in Chennai in India on Tuesday.

Indian airlines started delivering batches of COVID-19 vaccines across the country on Tuesday, getting ready for the launch of a campaign to offer shots to 1.3 billion people in what officials call the world’s biggest vaccination drive.

Authorities hope to inoculate 300 million high-risk people over the next six to eight months. Vaccinations are scheduled to begin on Saturday.

First to get the vaccine will be 30 million health and front-line workers, followed by about 270 million people aged over 50 or deemed high-risk.

Airlines were due to deliver 5.65 million vaccine doses on Tuesday to various cities, aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Twitter.

In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat, officials said vaccine distribution was their top priority.

“These vaccines will be taken to the cold storage from the airport and swiftly delivered to vaccination booths,” said Nitin Patel, Gujarat’s deputy chief minister.

Modi’s government on Monday signed purchase agreements with Pune-based vaccine manufacturer, Serum Institute of India, to buy its Covishield shot, over a week after approving the vaccine developed by Britain’s AstraZeneca and Oxford University.

Serum is supplying some 11 million doses of the shot to the government at 200 rupees (US$2.72) a dose, a source said.

Health authorities in eastern and western Indian states said they would use the experience from regular child immunization programs for polio to ensure everyone gets covered.

But shoddy transport networks and a crumbling health care system add an enormous layer of complexity.

At close to 10.5 million, India has the second-highest number of COVID-19 infections globally behind the United States.


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