No Option to Choose from Two Vaccines, Doses to be 28 Days Apart: Govt Details Rollout Plan

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The healthcare and frontline workers who will be inoculated in the first phase of the vaccination drive against Covid-19 starting Saturday will have no option to choose from the two vaccines that have been given emergency use approval, the union health ministry said on Tuesday.

The government has approved two vaccines – Covishield, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India, and Covaxin, which has been developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech together with the Indian Council of Medical Research.

In a joint press conference by the health ministry, ICMR and the Niti Aayog, officials also clarified that the two doses of the vaccine will be administered 28 days apart, and the vaccine is expected to offer protection 14 days after the second dose is given.

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The recipients of the vaccine will get a message one day before they are to be administered the vaccine. Officials said that 1 crore registrations have already been completed for the vaccination drive on CO-Win app, the IT platform that has emerged as the backbone of the massive programme set to be rolled out across the country on January 16.

Vaccinations are set to begin on Saturday in an effort that authorities hope will see 30 crore high-risk people inoculated over the next six to eight months. The vaccine will first be given to 1 crore health care workers, followed by two crore frontline workers and 27 crore citizens over the age of 50 and people with co-morbidities.

The government said it expects all states to keep ready all logistics ready for the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine from January 16. There will be continuous oversight and personal involvement on the entire process of roll-out, officials said.

The two companies whose vaccines have been approved have already started dispatching the shots to various cities. Airlines were due to deliver 56.5 lakh doses on Tuesday to various cities, Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Twitter.

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The government signed purchase pacts on Monday Serum Institute of India (SII) for 1.1 crore doses, and for 55 lakh doses from Bharat Biotech. "We've given a special price of Rs 200 for the first 100 million doses only to the government of India on their request," Adar Poonawalla, Serum Institute's chief executive, said. If tax is included, the dose will cost Rs 220.

Each dose of Covaxin, on the other hand, will cost Rs 309.5, inclusive of taxes. Without the taxes it will cost Rs 295. The government, however, confirmed that of the 55 lakh Covaxin doses, 16.5 lakh will be free of cost. This effectively brings down the price of each dose to Rs 206, officials said.

The government said it will stagger the purchase orders, and expects the rollout of the vaccien to take more than a year.