A vaccine to protect against the novel coronavirus - something crores of Indians battling months of lockdown fatigue have been waiting for - is great news, but it does not mean Covid-appropriate behaviour can be abandoned, the government warned on Tuesday evening.
At a press briefing on the overall Covid situation in the country the Health Ministry stressed on the need to follow protocols - wearing face masks in public, maintaining social distance and washing hands regularly - even if you have been vaccinated, to minimise vaccine spread.
"After one dose, or even after two doses, Covid-appropriate behaviour has to be followed. I am requesting you with folded hands. Please don't think 'mujhe toh ab 1 dose ya 2 dose lag gaye ab mai kuch bhi kar sakta hu (I have got one dose or two doses... now nothing can happen to me),'" Rajesh Bhushan, the Union Health Secretary, said.
The ministry said both vaccines - Bharat Biotech's Covaxin and Serum Institute's Covishield, were to be administered in two doses 28 days apart, and that antibodies (which protect against future infection by the virus) only developed 14 days after the second dose.
"All people should come forward and accept the vaccines without hesitation," Dr VK Paul, Chairperson of the National Expert Committee on Vaccine Administration, said.
The appeal to ensure Covid-appropriate behaviour is followed even after vaccination comes as the number of active cases in the country continues to decline.
There are only two states with more than 50,000 active cases - Maharashtra (53,463) and Kerala (63,547) and only three with more than 10,000; the third is Uttar Pradesh (10,864).
In October last year, when India was recording over 70,000 new cases per day on a regular basis, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a 'jan andolan' campaign for COVID-appropriate behaviour.
Tens of thousands of medical professionals and community workers have been trained to take part in the vaccination process, for which three massive nationwide dry runs have been held.
The government had earlier said that around 30 crore people, including three crore frontline and healthcare workers, will be the first to get the shot.
The vaccine will be free of cost for this group. The rest, for whom pricing details have yet to be released, will consist of people over the age of 50 and those under but with co-morbidities.
Early this morning three trucks rolled out of the Serum Institute's Pune facility, carrying around 56 lakh doses of the Covishield vaccine.
The vaccines have been distributed to 13 cities ahead of the start of Saturday's vaccination drive, which will see technology - led by the government's CoWIN app (Covid Vaccine Intelligence Network) app and ecosystem - play a key role.