The world's second-most populous nation hopes to inoculate around 300 million of its 1.3 billion people by July

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the world's biggest coronavirus vaccine programme on Saturday virtually in New Delhi.

On day one, around 300,000 people will receive the first of two doses of the vaccine.

In his nationally televised address, the prime minister said, "Everyone was waiting for this day with bated breath. Everyone kept asking when the vaccine would come. It’s here and in a short span of time. In some minutes from now, the world’s biggest vaccination drive is to begin. It's a testimony to our scientists' talent and skills."

India, home to 1.3 billion people, has the world's second-largest caseload, and the government has given approvals to two vaccines -- though one is yet to complete clinical trials -- aiming to inoculate around 300 million people by July.

To this end, Modi said, "Such a big vaccination drive hasn’t ever been conducted in history. Look at the figures in the first phase -- 3 crore. We have to take it to 30 crore in the second phase. The United States, China and India are the only three countries in the world with a population of over 30 crore. The vaccination drive in India, by that measure, is so huge."

"Scientists and experts are satisfied with the safety of Made in India vaccines. That's why they have approved the vaccine. Citizens should hence stay away from propaganda, misinformation and rumours," PM Modi advised his countrymen.

PM Modi got overwhelmed with emotions as he remembered the ones India lost due to Covid-19, and were not accorded a proper farewell owing to the restrictions on movement.

He said, "Covid-19 kept people away from their families. Mothers cried for their children and had to stay away. People could not meet their elderly admitted at hospitals. We could not bid adieu to those with proper rituals who died due to coronavirus."

Delhi's Sulochna Kataria, a healthcare worker for 30 years, would be the first person to get vaccinated in India under the massive program.

Meanwhile, India's Covid caseload on Saturday climbed to 1,05,42,841 with 15,158 more people testing positive for the disease while recoveries surged to 1,01,79,715. The death toll increased to 1,52,093 with 175 more fatalities.