Almost a week since it started the "world's largest" vaccination exercise with its home-grown inoculants, India crossed a major milestone on Friday -- of administering jabs to at least 10.5 lakh, more than a million, beneficiaries, the health ministry has said.
The number of people who have received a jab of the two-dose vaccine in India since January 16 is "more than many other countries", the Health Ministry said in a statement amid government's increased push to spread information on their safety.
"In the last 24 hours, 2,37,050 healthcare workers were vaccinated across 4,049 sessions... On the testing front too, India continues to register growing numbers... cumulative testing has crossed 19 crore. This helped bring down the positivity rate to 5.59% as of today," the statement read as India reported some 14,000 cases against 8 lakh tests with 167 deaths.
The statement was issued as the centre fights hard to counter hesitancy towards India's vaccines - Bharat Biotech's Covaxin and Serum Institute of India's Covishield.
Many frontline and healthcare workers have requested they be allowed to choose which vaccine they receive amid ongoing phase 3 trials of Covaxin. The death of at least four frontline workers soon after getting their first jab has deepened fears.
None of the deaths are related to the vaccines, the government has said while releasing the number of cases of daily hospitalisations, and minor adverse events following immunisation (AEFI).
The vaccine are safe, it has stressed repeatedly but reports of many vaccine vials going to waste continue to pour in.
"Please understand the whole world is clamouring for vaccines... I plead with healthcare workers, our doctors and nurses, on behalf of the government, because we don't know what shape this pandemic will take going forward," NITI Aayog member VK Paul, who heads a government committee on vaccine strategy, said.
Over the past few days, the government has also adopted a slew of measures to allay fears and dispel myths, which it says are being peddled for political gain.
Ahead of January 16, the government replaced the statutory Covid safety warning issued in Amitabh Bachchan's voice to a vaccine-safety message. Top doctors across states received shots and televised the proceedings to build confidence on Day 1.
In fact, sources indicate that in phase 2, besides those over 50 years of age, the Prime Minister and all other union and state ministers, and lawmakers would also take the vaccine.
In phase 1, set to be completed by July, one crore health workers followed by 2 crore frontline workers will get the vaccine.