Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will roll out the "biggest vaccination campaign in the world" on Saturday in an attempt to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control, Reuters and other sources reported.
The country plans to immunize around 300 million people, or over 20 percent of its 1.3 billion population, against COVID-19 in the first phase of the campaign.
India's vaccine regulator has given the approval to two vaccines - Covishield (local name for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine developed in Europe) and Covaxin, locally-produced by pharmaceutical company Bharat Biotech.
The prime minister will address healthcare workers through video conferencing but will not immediately be given the shot himself as health authorities are initially prioritizing doctors, nurses, and others on the front line.
"This will be the world's biggest vaccination program covering the entire length and breadth of the country," Modi's office disclosed in a statement this week.
Some 4,000 health workers will be given the COVID vaccine every day at nine inoculation facilities in Mumbai, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation said.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray will spearhead the immunization campaign from a center in Bandra Kurla Complex on Saturday, the BMC said in an official release.
India, the second-most populous country in the world next to China, has announced it may not need to immunize all of its 1.35 billion people to create a so-called "herd immunity."
Still, covering even 50 percent of the country's population will make it one of the largest vaccination campaigns in the world, even if nations like the U.S. were to inoculate every resident.
India's airline companies have started delivering the first doses of vaccines to New Delhi, and other major cities, including Ahmedabad, Kolkata, and technology center Bengaluru, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Twitter this week.
Covaxin and Covishield will be administered as two shots on a 28-days interval, with the second shot being a booster. Health officials expect immunity to start to take effect after the first shot but reaches its full effect 14 days after the second dose.
India has recorded the second-biggest number of virus infections in the world next to the United States. Over 10 million people in India have contracted the virus, more than 151,000 of whom have perished, although the rate of infections has been reduced since a mid-September surge.
"India's expertise in vaccine production and experience with mass vaccination has prepared it well for Phase 1 inoculations this weekend," Akhil Bery, South Asia analyst at Eurasia Group, stated in a report this week.