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Timeline: How India prepared for the massive COVID-19 vaccination drive

The nationwide COVID-19 vaccination exercise, pegged as the world’s largest, has been in planning for months.

January 16, 2021 / 07:06 AM IST
File image: Medics sit inside a vaccination room during a nationwide dry run of COVID-19 vaccine delivery systems, at a temporary vaccination centre in Mumbai, India on January 8, 2021. (Image: Reuters/Niharika Kulkarni)

File image: Medics sit inside a vaccination room during a nationwide dry run of COVID-19 vaccine delivery systems, at a temporary vaccination centre in Mumbai, India on January 8, 2021. (Image: Reuters/Niharika Kulkarni)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to launch India’s massive COVID-19 vaccination drive at 10.30 am on January 16 via a video conference.

A total of 3,006 session sites across all states and Union Territories will be virtually connected during the launch. Around 100 beneficiaries will be vaccinated at each session site on the inaugural day.

Priority will be given to healthcare and front-line workers, who have already been registered on the purpose-built CoWIN application. This would be sequentially followed by people with comorbidities, senior citizens and finally, the general public. The Centre is hoping to vaccinate 30 crore people by July, in a bid to stop the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Read: How CoWIN app will let you register for COVID-19 vaccination

The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has approved two vaccines – Covishield and Covaxin – for restricted emergency use. Beneficiaries will not be able to choose among the two jabs.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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This nationwide vaccination exercise, pegged as the “world’s largest”, has been in planning for months.

Here’s a timeline of how India fought back and prepared for the massive vaccination exercise:

January 30, 2020: India's first COVID-19 case was reported.

March 25, 2020: India entered a nationwide lockdown.

June 30, 2020: The DCGI approved Covaxin for human trials, making it India’s first domestic vaccine candidate.

July 24, 2020: Phase-1 clinical trials of Bharat Biotech’s ‘Covaxin’ began.

August 26, 2020: Serum Institute of India (SII) started clinical trials of ‘Covishield’ – the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca.

September 17, 2020: Highest single-day rise of 97,894 cases was reported in India.

December 2, 2020: The UK became the first country to formally approve a COVID-19 vaccine for public use as it granted emergency use authorisation to Pfizer-BioNTech's candidate. Many countries followed suit.

December 7, 2020: SII and Bharat Biotech applied for emergency use authorisation for their respective vaccines.

December 19, 2020: India's COVID-19 tally crossed 1 crore-mark.

December 28, 2020: First dry run held across four states – Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat and Punjab – to test preparedness of vaccinators and assess mechanisms.

January 2, 2021: First nationwide dry run held across all states and Union territories.

January 3, 2021: DCGI granted restricted emergency use authorisation for SII’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin.

January 8, 2021: Second nationwide dry run conducted.

January 12, 2021: First consignment of Covishield left SII’s manufacturing facility in Pune.

January 13, 2021: First consignment of Covaxin was dispatched from Hyderabad.

January 16, 2021: India’s first phase of COVID-19 vaccination begins.

COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker: All you need to know about manufacturing and pricing

As of January 15, India had reported more than 1.05 crore confirmed COVID-19 cases. The death toll from the outbreak in the country stood at nearly 1.52 lakh. While more than 1.01 crore patients had recovered, 2.13 lakh cases remained ‘active’. Globally, more than 9.25 crore individuals have been infected by the virus and over 19.84 lakh people have died so far.

Also read: What to expect when you finally arrive at a centre for COVID-19 vaccination

A speedy roll-out of vaccines is being seen as the best way to curb the spread of COVID-19 and restore normalcy in the pandemic-battered global economy. More than 50 countries, including the US and the UK, have already vaccinated a large number of people from high-risk groups.

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