New Delhi: Yesterday, India was just one step away from beginning the world’s largest vaccination drive, with 30 crore people in line to get the COVID-19 vaccine shots in just the first phase. Today, the wait is over as the national drug regulator Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) granted its final approval for the two COVID-19 vaccines of Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech for restricted use in emergency situation.Also Read - India Gets 2 Coronavirus Vaccines, Approves Covaxin, Covishield For Restricted Emergency Use | Updates

The DGCI made the announcement at a press conference at the National Media Centre on Sunday morning. Also Read - Mexican Doctor Reports Serious Allergic Reaction After Receiving Pfizer Covid Vaccine

Yesterday, the expert panel of India’s drug regulator recommended granting permission for restricted emergency use of the indigenously developed Covid-19 vaccine ‘Covaxin’ in “public interest as an abundant precaution.” Also Read - Covishield & Covaxin Get Expert Panel's Nod | Here's When You Can Expect Mass Rollout of Vaccine to Begin

A day before, the Subject Expert Committee (SEC) of Central Drugs Standards Control Organisation (CDSCO) recommended Serum Institute of India’s ‘Covishield’ for emergency use.

This paved the way for the rollout of at least two vaccines in India in the coming days, while two more are in advance stages of development.

The final call by apex drug body DGCI to approve Covishield and Covaxin was awaited and the mass vaccine rollout will now begin soon in the coming weeks.

The approval of Covishield and Covaxin by DCGI will bring major relief for India which has the second highest number of COVID-19 infections in the world, after the United States.

Here’s what we know so far:

OXFORD-SERUM VACCINE COVISHIELD FIRST TO GET APPROVED

The CDSCO expert panel, tasked with vetting the Covid-19 vaccine proposals, recommended Serum Institute of India-manufactured Covishield for emergency use. It also gave its nod for Phase-III Trials trial protocol to Cadila Healthcare.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine Covishield is the first vaccine to secure recommendation for emergency use in India. The nod of the DCGI is, however, awaited on the recommendation.

BHARAT BIOTECH’S COVAXIN GETS APPROVAL TOO

Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin is India’s first indigenous vaccine for coronavirus. The inactivated virus vaccine has been developed in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and National Institute of Virology (NIV).

The expert panel earlier had held that the data provided by Bharat Biotech for its coronavirus vaccine is not sufficient for grant of emergency use approval and asked for more information. On Saturday, the panel gave its nod to Covaxin and recommended the Bharat Biotech vaccine for restricted emergency use in India.

“Grant of permission for restricted use in emergency situation in public interest as an abundant precaution, in clinical trial mode, specially in the context of infection by mutant strains, to Bharat Biotech International,” the centre said in a statement.

MASS VACCINE ROLLOUT EXPECTED IN 2 WEEKS

AIIMS Chief Dr Randeep Guleria on Saturday said that the mass rollout of COVID-19 vaccine is expected in the coming 10-14 days. “We will start the vaccination in a slow process. By that time more vaccines will be available,” Guleria said while speaking to News18.

He also emphasized on the importance of ensuring crowd management when the vaccination drive finally begins. “We also need to ensure that the vaccines are not getting wasted because of the cold storages. This is why the dry run helps,” he added.

30 CRORE PEOPLE IN PRIORITY GROUP TO GET VACCINATED FOR FREE

The central government plans to vaccinate nearly 30 crore people in the first phase of drive in the next six to eight months. It will be offered to one crore healthcare workers, along with two crore frontline and essential workers and 27 crore elderly people, mostly above the age of 50 years with co-morbidities.

Initially, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said that COVID-19 vaccine shots would be free of cost across the country. “Not just in Delhi, it (vaccine) will be free across the country,” he said speaking to reporters.

Later, the Health Minister asserted that one crore healthcare workers and two crore frontline workers would be given free vaccine in the first phase of the inoculation drive, and details of how the rest will be vaccinated are being worked out.

Niti Aayog member and the national Covid-19 task force head, Dr Vinod Paul also said that the government will cover the vaccination cost of 30 crore people from the priority group, not the whole population.

EVERYONE IN DELHI TO GET FREE VACCINE

Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain on Saturday said COVID-19 vaccine will be provided to people in the national capital for free once it arrives, and asserted that the city government has made preparations for the vaccination drive.

PAN INDIA DRY RUN: REHEARSAL FOR MASS ROLLOUT UNDERWAY

Ahead of the mass rollout, a dry run was held by all states and union territories on Saturday in preparation for a massive inoculation drive, with Health Minister Harsh Vardhan appealing to people not to be misguided by “rumours” and disinformation regarding the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. The dry run involved 286 session sites spread across 125 districts.

More than 75 lakh beneficiaries have been registered on Co-WIN software which has been developed by the health ministry for real time information of vaccine stocks, their storage temperature and individualized tracking of beneficiaries for COVID-19 vaccine.