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NEW DELHI : India on Thursday crossed the much-awaited 1 billion mark in covid-19 vaccinations, with Uttar Pradesh, followed by Maharashtra, West Bengal, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh being the top five states administering the highest number of doses. According to the Union health ministry, about 75% people above 18 years have been vaccinated with the first dose and over 31% population has been completely vaccinated with both doses.

With the country passing the 1 billion milestone, celebrations have been planned across the country. Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya will launch a song sung by Kailash Kher and an film to celebrate the milestone.

According to the plans of the central government, ships anchored in Indian ports will sound their horns as a mark of the celebrations. In all states, local artists, folk artistes and handloom weavers can come out with creations highlighting the 1 billion vaccinations mark. Also in all states, a five-day campaign in the name “100 districts—100 different folk forms" will also be held. Monuments under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) will be illuminated to mark the achievement. Several states will also allow free ropeway rides to fully vaccinated people.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed gratitude to doctors, nurses and all those who worked towards achieving the 100 crore vaccinations mark. “India scripts history. We are witnessing the triumph of Indian science, enterprise and collective spirit of 130 crore Indians. Congrats India on crossing 100 crore vaccinations. Gratitude to our doctors, nurses and all those who worked to achieve this feat. #VaccineCentury," Modi tweeted

The Union health ministry in a statement said that more than 103.5 crore (1,035,351,045) vaccine doses have been provided to states and Union territories so far through the government of India (free of cost) and through direct state procurement category. More than 10.85 crore (108,569,250) balance and unutilized covid-19 vaccine doses are still available with the states/UTs to be administered.

Greetings landed from the World Health Organization, too. "Huge congratulations to India for marking yet another milestone—a billion covid-19 vaccine doses administered. This extraordinary feat in a short span was not possible without strong political leadership, inter-sectoral convergence, dedicated efforts of the entire health and front line workforce, and the people themselves. India’s progress must be viewed in the context of the country’s commendable commitment and efforts to ensure that these life-saving vaccines are accessible globally," said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director, WHO South-East Asia.

The countrywide vaccination drive was rolled out on 16 January 2021 with vaccination of healthcare workers (HCWs) and vaccination of the front line workers (FLWs) started from 2 February 2021.The second phase of covid-19 vaccination commenced from 1 March 2021 for those who are over 60 years of age and for people aged 45 and above with specified co-morbid conditions following which the third phase was rolled out from 1 April 2021 covering all persons above 45 years of age irrespective of co-morbidities. In a significant development, the government later also announced to provide free covid-19 vaccines to all adults from 21 June.

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