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UPDATE 1-Sanitation worker gets first shot as India launches COVID-19 vaccination campaign

Sat, 16th Jan 2021 07:41

(Adds quote, details)

By Krishna N. Das and Mayank Bhardwaj

NEW DELHI, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Sanitation worker Manish Kumar
became the first person in India to be vaccinated against
COVID-19 on Saturday, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched
one of the world's largest immunisation campaigns to bring the
pandemic under control.

India is prioritising nurses, doctors and other frontline
workers, and Modi had tears in his eyes as he addressed
healthcare workers through video conferencing.

"The disease separated people from their families, kept
mothers away from their children, and those who died of the
disease couldn't even get a final goodbye from their families,"
Modi said.

The singing of Sanskrit hymns followed the prime minister's
address. Modi, 70, has not said whether he will be taking the
vaccine, but he has said that politicians would not be
considered frontline workers.

Kumar received his shot at Delhi's premier All-India
Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), just one of 3,006
vaccination centres established around the country.

On the first day of an immunisation campaign, that the
government says is the biggest in the world, India aims to
vaccinate around 300,600 people.

With a population of nearly 1.4 billion people, India is the
world's most populous country after China, but the government
says it will not have the vaccinate everyone to achieve herd
immunity.

India, which has reported the highest number of coronavirus
infections after the United States, and it plans to vaccinate
around 300 million people with two doses in the first six to
eight months of the year.

People will not be able to choose between the Oxford
University/AstraZeneca vaccine and a government-backed,
vaccine developed by India's Bharat Biotech whose efficacy is
not known. Both are being produced locally.

Some 10.5 million people in India have been infected with
the coronavirus, including more than 151,000 who died, though
the rate of infection has come down from its peak in
mid-September.

First in line for the vaccine are some 30 million health and
other frontline workers, such as those in sanitation and
security, followed by about 270 million people older than 50 or
deemed high-risk because of pre-existing medical conditions.

The government has already bought 11 million doses of the
AstraZeneca COVISHIELD shot, produced by the Serum Institute of
India, and 5.5 million of Bharat Biotech's COVAXIN.

COVISHIELD is 72% effective, according to the Indian drug
regulator, while Bharat Biotech says COVAXIN's last-stage trial
results are expected by March.
(Reporting by Krishna N. Das and Mayank Bhardwaj; Additional
reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal, Amit Dave and Adnan Abidi; Editing
by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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