The recipients of the programme include 30 million doctors, nurses and other front line workers to be followed by 270 million others, who are either aged over 50 or have illnesses that make them vulnerable to Covid-19.
For workers who have pulled India’s battered health care system through the pandemic, the shots offered confidence that life can start returning to normal.
“I am excited that I am among the first to get the vaccine,” said nurse Gita Devi, as she lifted her left sleeve to receive the shot.
“I am happy to get an India-made vaccine and we do not have to depend on others for it,” said Ms Devi, who has treated patients throughout the pandemic in a hospital in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh state.
The first dose was administered to a health worker at All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences in the capital New Delhi, after prime minister Narendra Modi kickstarted the campaign with a nationally televised speech.
“We are launching the world’s biggest vaccination drive and it shows the world our capability,” Mr Modi said.
He implored citizens to keep their guard up and not to believe any “rumours about the safety of the vaccines”.