An aircraft carrying the vaccines touched down in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad on Saturday.
“First batch of Sputnik V vaccine arrives in Hyderabad, India! That’s the same day the country starts mass COVID vaccination drive covering its entire adult population. Let’s jointly defeat this pandemic. Together we are stronger,” a statement posted to Sputnik V’s official Twitter account reads.
According to India’s Foreign Ministry, the first shipment contained some 150,000 Sputnik V doses. Earlier this week, India’s envoy to Russia, Bala Venkatesh Varma, said the country was expected to receive between 150,000-200,000 doses in early May. By the end of the month, around 3 million doses are set to be delivered, the diplomat added.
The delivery comes as India expands its vaccination program. Starting from May 1, every citizen aged over 18 is eligible to receive the jab. Previously, the vaccination drive was primarily focused on the elderly, as well as on frontline medical workers.
Despite the vaccination efforts, India has faced a sharp surge in coronavirus cases. Over the past few days, the country has repeatedly set new global daily records. A new grim milestone record was registered on Saturday, with the authorities reporting just over 400,000 Covid-19 cases in the previous 24 hours. The death toll jumped by more than 3,500, reaching over 211,000.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, India registered more than 19 million coronavirus cases, holding a solid second place in terms of absolute figures worldwide, dwarfed only by the US tally of over 32 million.
The Covid-19 spike has put a heavy strain on India’s healthcare system, with multiple hospitals running out of beds to accommodate the patients and experiencing shortages of medical oxygen, required to treat the critically ill.
Several countries have pledged to help India as it struggles with the second wave. Russia, for instance, sent two planeloads of aid earlier this week, delivering oxygen, ventilators and antiviral drugs to the country.
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