Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi today launched the rollout of the country's Covid-19 vaccination drive, saying Indian vaccines were cheaper compared to others around the world.
"The country had been waiting impatiently for this day," Modi said as he virtually launched one of the world's biggest vaccination programmes that aims at inoculating one crore health and other frontline workers first, reports our New Delhi correspondent.
"Never before in history has such a big vaccination drive been launched," he said, adding India's "vaccination programme is driven by humanitarian concerns and those exposed to maximum risk get priority."
The vaccination drive would use shots developed by Oxford University-AstraZeneca and manufactured by Serum Institute of India. The other jabs will be Covaxin, produced by Bharat Biotech and developed in collaboration with the country's top clinical research body Indian Council of Medical Research.
More than three lakh healthcare workers are set to be inoculated on the first day of the vaccination campaign across 3,000 sites that Indian Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said would mark "probably the beginning of the end" of Covid-19.
Modi said India's vaccines are developed in a way keeping in mind the conditions of the country. "They will give decisive victory to our country."
Urging people not to fall for rumours about vaccine, the PM said the Indian drug regulator "gave approval after they were satisfied with the data of the two vaccines."
"Our vaccine developers have a global credibility. Life-saving vaccines given to 60 percent children globally are made in India."
He said "it takes years to make a vaccine, but in such a short time, not one but two made-in-India vaccines were developed by India. This is testimony to the skills and talent of our scientists."
Modi also paid an emotional tribute to frontline workers in the fight against coronavirus recalling some poignant moments when many people could not even perform last rites for their loved ones and virus-infected people were separated from their families.
"But in times of that crisis and atmosphere of despair, some were giving us hope. They were putting themselves at risk to save us -- doctors, nurses, paramedics, ambulance drivers, ASHA workers, sanitation workers, police and other frontline workers -- they prioritised their duty towards humanity.
"They stayed away from their families and children, stayed away from their homes for days. Hundreds never returned home. They sacrificed their lives to save lives. So today, by vaccinating the healthcare workers first, society is in a way paying their debts," he said.
The start of India's vaccination came on a day when India's total caseload stood at 1,05,42,841 and the death toll at 1,52,093 after a steady decline of both over the last few months.