India on Saturday began giving the second dose of the coronavirus vaccine to healthcare and other frontline workers. Two lakh beneficiaries who were given a dose on January 16, the first day of the inoculation drive, will receive the second shot, reported The Indian Express.

The second dose needs to be administered 28 days after taking the first shot. Experts have, however, clarified that the 28-day window is not mandatory, and that the second shot can be taken anytime between four to six weeks from the first dose.

At least three states and one Union Territory have planned sessions to administer the second dose from Saturday. These include Delhi, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir.

India still has the world’s second-highest number of coronavirus cases after the United States but over the past two months, it has seen a steady decline in new cases. On Saturday, the country’s tally rose to 1,08,92,746 with 12,143 new infections in a day, while the recoveries crossed 1.06 crore. The toll rose to 1,55,550 with 103 new deaths.

As many as 79,67,647 healthcare and frontline workers have received the first dose of the vaccine till Friday, the health ministry said. Out of these, 5,909,136 are healthcare workers and 2,058,511 are frontline workers. A total of 1,64,781 sessions have been conducted so far.

India has set a target of inoculating 30 crore people by July. This will be followed by beneficiaries older than 50 or deemed at high-risk because of pre-existing medical conditions.

It is relying on a digital platform called CoWIN to link beneficiaries with vaccines, in what the government touts as the biggest inoculation campaign in the world. Though initial glitches in the software slowed the immunisation programme, the government said modifications had been made to ensure no such repeat occurred.

The country is using a vaccine, Covaxin, developed at home by Bharat Biotech and the Indian Council of Medical Research, and another licensed from Oxford University and AstraZeneca, which is produced by the Serum Institute of India in Pune, and is locally known as Covishield.

Some doctors and health experts have expressed doubt about the Bharat Biotech vaccine, which was given approval for emergency use without efficacy data from late-stage clinical trials. But the government says it is safe and effective.

India took just 26 days to vaccinate over 70 lakh people, while it took 27 days for the United States and 48 days for the United Kingdom to reach the same figures, the health ministry had said earlier.

With over eight lakh beneficiaries, Uttar Pradesh has recorded the highest number of vaccinations, followed by Maharashtra at 6,33,519 and Gujarat with 6,61,508 workers vaccinated.

The Centre has repeatedly stressed that the beneficiaries do not miss taking their second dose, as the the protective levels of antibodies are generally developed two weeks after receiving the second shot of Covid-19 vaccine, according to The Indian Express.

In fact, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while rolling out the vaccination drive, had urged the beneficiaries to mandatorily complete the two-dose schedule. “You cannot take only one dose and then forget; don’t make such a mistake,” he had said.