The number of Indians administered doses of Covid-19 vaccines soared to a record 69 lakh on Monday, the first day of the new scheme announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to inoculate all adults in the country for free.
This is nearly three times the average of 27 lakh doses a day that have been administered over the last 30 days.
"The Central Government is beginning the 'Free Vaccination For All campaign' for every Indian from today. The biggest beneficiary of this phase of India's vaccination drive shall be the poor, the middle class and the youth of the country. All of us should pledge to get ourselves vaccinated. Together we will defeat COVID-19," PM Modi tweeted today.
Earlier some states had wanted to buy vaccines on their own but had failed to make headway. With the ferocious second wave striking the country, the Prime Minister had decided that the Centre would take over the entire procurement of vaccines and distribute them free of cost to the states.
The centre also started the process of buying 75 per cent of the vaccines produced by companies, including 25 per cent assigned to states. Private hospitals will continue to buy the remaining 25 per cent and inoculate those willing to pay for their jabs, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced earlier this month.
The last time India's single-day vaccine coverage was this high was on April 2 when 42,65,157 doses were administered.
Several states have set higher inoculation targets as lockdown restrictions are being eased, with Haryana expecting to vaccinate at least 2 lakh people today. Gurugram's health department, till 2PM today, vaccinated 45,728 people against COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, the highest coverage in the city till now.
In Assam, which has one of the lowest vaccination rate within the country, the government today launched an "Enhanced Covid Vaccination" drive that targets to inoculate 3 lakh people daily for the next 10 days.
"It marks the beginning of the end of adversities related to COVID-19 in the country," Giridhara Babu, a member of the Indian Council of Medical Research, the country's main health research agency, told Reuters.
Since May, widespread shortages worsened a divide between urban and rural areas, as many younger people in cities turned to private hospitals where they were being charged steep amounts of up to Rs 2,000 a shot.
That drew criticism that millions were vulnerable to infections, particularly in the countryside where two-thirds of the population lives.
Experts have warned of a potential third wave as only about 5% of all 950 million eligible people are fully inoculated with two doses even as daily infections have fallen this month.
Over the last 24 hours, India reported 53,256 infections, the lowest since March 24. Infections hit a peak of about 400,000 a day in May and deaths soared to around 170,000 in April-May.