ONE BILLION VACCINES AND COUNTING…

 ONE BILLION VACCINES AND COUNTING…

One thousand million, more commonly known as a billion. That’s the total number of Covid vaccines administered across India as of the latest. Even more impressive is that the milestone was achieved over a nine-month period. Roughly 40 vaccines every second! As it stands, approximately a third of the Indian population is fully vaccinated, with 3 in 4 people having received at least one dose. To celebrate, the national flag was flown at Red Fort and heritage monuments across the country were illuminated in saffron, white, and green. This represents the second-highest number of doses administered by a nation, next to China who has administered a staggering 2.3 billion doses. Indian Health Minister, Mansukh Mandaviya, tweeted a celebratory “Congratulations India! We have achieved a landmark milestone”.

That said, the weekly moving average has slowed from almost 60m to around 40m a week. However, that is to be expected as more and more citizens receive their jabs. The focus now is to ensure everyone follows through and receives their second dose. That may be helped by the fewer challenges in vaccine supply. The Serum Institute of India, which provides over 90% of India’s vaccines, claim the country now has three to four weeks of surplus stock. The national airline, Airline IndiGo, have also played their part by acting as the main transporter of Covid vaccines across the country. They have transported an impressive 1,727 tonnes over 4,500 internal flights. This represents almost 7 out of all vaccines administered to date.

Fears are growing that India may lag in rolling out second doses. This has led some states to offer rewards for fully vaccinated people. In the state of Gujarat, free medical kits and ropeway rides were offered to those who showed proof of a second jab. Other states are deciding the best way to incentivise citizens. For many states, the next big task is to fight vaccine hesitancy in states such as Tamil Nadu. Albeit some states are faring well, West Bengal has witnessed 72% of citizens receiving a first dose and 28% both doses. Overall, and more worryingly, states like Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Jharkhand, Bihar, and West Bengal with considerably large populations of over 60-year-olds have significantly low coverage of Covid vaccination doses per 1,000 population in this age category. All states are working on dispelling the myth that ‘one vaccine is enough’.

Recently the Indian Health Minister put out a promotional video, and announcements were made at bus and train stations that praised the nation’s “corona warriors, sanitation workers, paramedics, vaccination staff for landmark achievement”. Objectively, given India’s stance on the global stage and by surpassing the U.S. and Europe, who stand at 900m doses combined, it represents an astonishing feat. Going forward, health authorities are optimistic that India can reach ‘full-vaccination’ early in the new year. A concerted effort will be needed, though, especially as fears grow this virus could turn endemic like the common flu.

Deepak Gopalakrishnan

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