Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on Saturday said that the coronavirus vaccine will be provided free to 3 crore frontline workers, including medical staff.

“In 1st phase of #Covid-19 Vaccination, free vaccine shall be provided across the nation to most prioritised beneficiaries that include 1 crore healthcare & 2 crore frontline workers,” the health minister tweeted. “Details of how further 27 crore priority beneficiaries are to be vaccinated until July are being finalised. ”

The statement came a day after a day after a government-appointed panel of experts held a meeting to review the applications of vaccine candidates. Reports suggested that the Subject Expert Committee approved Serum Institute of India’s Covishield for emergency use in the country, though there has been no official confirmation yet. The Pune firm is the local maker of the vaccine developed by Oxford University and pharmaceuticals company AstraZeneca.

Earlier in the day, Vardhan said that the Drugs Controller General of India would soon take a decision of the recommendation, according to NDTV. “There should be no rumours about the vaccine’s safety... everything has been checked in detail,” the minister said as he reviewed the preparation of a coronavirus vaccine dry run at a Delhi hospital. “Initially when the polio vaccine was rolled out, even then rumours had floated. But once it went on the floor, all people were assured about the safety,” he said.

A vaccine dry run is being held in all states across the country to assess the readiness for the Covid-19 vaccination roll-out programme, with health authorities checking everything – from their technology platforms to the storage infrastructure – that will be required to inoculate millions.

The government already successfully conducted a two-day pilot Covid-19 vaccination drive in four states – Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab and Assam – on December 28 and December 29. But Saturday’s dry run was more ambitious in scope as it covered all state capitals, including districts that are situated in difficult terrains, or have poor logistical support. Maharashtra and Kerala are likely to schedule the dry run in major cities other than their capitals.

Meanwhile, India’s coronavirus case count on Saturday rose to 1,03,05,788 after 19,079 new infections were reported in 24 hours. The toll stood at 1,49,218, with 224 deaths in a day. There are 2,50,183 active cases and 99,06,387 people have recovered from Covid-19 so far. The active cases include 29 cases of the new mutated coronavirus as well.