India began one of the world’s biggest coronavirus vaccination programmes on Saturday, hoping to end a pandemic that has killed 150,000 people in the country and torpedoed the economy.
AFP looks at the numbers involved in the vast and complex undertaking compounded by weak infrastructure, online hoaxes and worries about one of the vaccines being rolled out while still in clinical trials.
300 million people
Over the coming months, India aims to inoculate around a quarter of the population, or 300 million people. They include healthcare workers, people aged over 50 and those at high risk.
On the first day, around 300,000 people were set to be vaccinated at 3,000 centres. About 150,000 staff in 700 districts have been trained to administer jabs and keep records.
The government aims to manage the entire process digitally with its own app, CoWIN, which will link every vaccine dose to its recipient.
45,000 fridges (and one bike)
India has four “mega depots” to take delivery of the vaccines and transport them to state distribution hubs in temperature-controlled vans, keeping the doses colder than 8 degrees Celsius (46.4 Fahrenheit).
A total of 29,000 cold-chain points, 240 walk-in coolers, 70 walk-in freezers, 45,000 ice-lined refrigerators, 41,000 deep freezers and 300 solar fridges are at the ready.
These will be needed once the Indian summer arrives in the coming months.
In one recent practice run in a rural area, a consignment of dummy vaccines was photographed being delivered by bicycle.
To stop any of the vials being stolen and being sold on India’s large drugs black market, authorities are taking no chances, with armed police guarding every truck.
CCTVs are in place at warehouses with entry subject to fingerprint authentication. Automated data loggers will monitor storage temperature and transfer messages every three seconds to a central unit, according to the Times of India.
“Security measures are essential to not only address the issue of logistics and safety but also build confidence in people that the supply chain is intact, unbroken and safe to the point of delivery,” Preeti Kumar, a public