India started its largest vaccination drive on Saturday with inoculation of 1.91 lakh people, including frontline workers and scientists.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the vaccination drive, warning citizens against falling for propaganda or rumours over vaccines, reports NDTV.
Sanitation worker Manish Kumar received the first shot of Covid-19 vaccine at Delhi's premier All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), just one of the over 3,000 vaccination centres established around the country.
On the first day of the immunisation campaign, the government said it aimed to vaccinate over 3 lakh people.
Government sources said there was considerable hesitation among people about getting the vaccines, explaining the shortfall in numbers. Officials stressed that the drive was successful, there were no post-vaccine hospitalisations and the only glitches involved the "CoWin" software platform.
"Many of them (staff) were scared. So, I went to my seniors and said I should be given the vaccine first. I wanted to prove to my colleagues that there is no need to be scared. My wife even asked me not to take the vaccine. I told her it is just an injection. After taking the dose, I asked my mother to tell my wife that I am safe," Mr Kumar said.
Giving India a new motto - "Dawai bhi, Kadai bhi (yes to Vaccine, yes to discipline)" - PM Modi also cautioned that even after vaccination, citizens must stay vigilant and maintain all precautions against the virus, including masks and distancing.
India's drive is one of the world's biggest vaccination programmes, aimed at inoculating 3 crore health and other frontline workers to start with. Two shots manufactured in India, the Covishield developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, and Covaxin produced by Bharat Biotech, are being used. The drive was remote launched by the Prime Minister with the chanting of a Sanskrit shloka that meant ''let all be happy, let all be healthy''.
With the highest number of coronavirus infections after the United States, India plans to vaccinate around 30 crore people with two doses in the first six to eight months of the year. Frontline workers will be followed by about 27 crore people older than 50 or deemed high-risk because of pre-existing medical conditions.
"I want to remind people of the country that two doses of the Corona vaccine are very important. Don't commit the mistake that you take one dose and forget the second one. As experts have been saying, there will be a gap of about one month between the two doses," PM Modi said.
The Prime Minister stressed that people should not fall for propaganda over vaccines, amid controversy over Bharat Biotech's Covaxin, which has been cleared for emergency use while still in clinical trial.
"Our scientists and experts were assured about the safety and efficacy of the two Made-in-India vaccines, only then did they allow the emergency use authorization. So stay away from propaganda, rumours, or misinformation," PM Modi said.