Health minister says frontline workers to get free COVID-19 vaccines first in India
India's health minister Harsh Vardhan on Saturday said that 30 million health care and frontline workers would get free COVID-19 vaccines in the first phase of vaccine rollout.
"In first phase of COVID-19 vaccination, free vaccine shall be provided across the nation to most prioritised beneficiaries that include 1 crore (10 million) healthcare and 2 crore (20 million) frontline workers," Vardhan wrote in a brief statement posted on social media.
"Details of how further 27 crore (270 million) priority beneficiaries are to be vaccinated until July are being finalised," he said.
Earlier in the day Vardhan said COVID-19 vaccines would be free of charge for people nationwide.
"Not just in Delhi, it will be free across the country," Vardhan told reporters.
The health minister also called on people not to be misguided by rumours regarding the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine.
"I want to appeal to people to not believe in any rumours. Our prime criteria in the vaccine trial is safety and efficacy and nothing will be compromised," he said. "Different kinds of rumours were also spread during polio immunisation, but people took the vaccine and now India is polio-free."
India's federal government is expected to initiate inoculation from this month, once the vaccine is approved by the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI).
On Saturday it conducted a COVID-19 vaccine dry run across India.
"Ahead of the actual vaccination drive, the ministry of health and family welfare today conducted a nationwide mock drill at 285 session sites to test the end-to-end planned operations and the mechanism that has been set up to ensure smooth conduct of the COVID-19 vaccination that is expected to begin soon," a government spokesman said.