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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Can India fully vaccinate 25 cr people by July?

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New Delhi, Apr 6 (IANS): Before you go gaga over the foreign media hailing the US or the UK for fast achieving the vaccination target for their people while criticising the Indian government for its slow pace, understand the very basic fact that India has to fully vaccinate over 130 crore people (procuring with more than 260 crore double-dose jabs), unlike the US with nearly 33 crore population (and still hoarding millions of vaccines) or the UK with a paltry 6.6 crore population.

India will need to give 36.5 lakh shots per day until the end of July, in order to achieve the target of vaccinating 25 crore people with two doses.

By that time, the US which has already administered vaccines to nearly 16.5 crore citizens, will achieve the target of giving Covid jab to its entire population.

Over 8 crore doses have been given so far in India, mostly to frontline workers and people above the age of 60. Everyone above the age of 45 is now eligible for the jab and some state governments have urged the union government to lower the age for vaccination.

Let us further decipher the India vaccine data to date.

The first-dose vaccinations have exceeded the figure of seven crore (7,22,77,309) doses.

Syringe industry seeks boost as 40% capacity is idle
A syringe with a vaccine is seen ahead of trials by volunteers testing for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), and taking part in the country’s human clinical trial for potential vaccines at the Wits RHI Shandukani Research Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa, August 27, 2020. Picture taken August 27, 2020. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Cumulatively, 8,31,10,926 vaccine doses have been administered by April 5.

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It means that by this time, only a little over 1.1 crore Indians have received both the doses and are now better protected than the rest who have received the first dose only.

As on Day 80 of the vaccination drive (April 5), a record 43,00,966 vaccine doses were given, out of which, 39,00,505 beneficiaries were vaccinated across 48,095 sessions for the first dose and 4,00,461 beneficiaries received second dose of vaccine, according to data provided by the Health Ministry on Tuesday.

Now, if the government can maintain the pace of 40 lakh jabs a day, India can achieve the target of vaccinating 25 crore people in the next two-three months, but we have to factor in the time lapse for second dose which is currently 6-8 weeks after the first dose.

It means that vaccinating Indians with two-dose vaccines is going to take several months amid the super surge in caseloads as the country is witnessing once again.

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What are the options?

More vaccines, preferably the single dose one like the Johnson & Johnson, will be ideal for a country like India as only two vaccines (Covishield and Covaxin) will take months to improve the situation and those who got vaccinated might lose immunity by that time, as what course this deadly virus along with dozens of variants may take in the near future is vastly unknown.

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Also, increasing vaccination frequency, opening more centres and lowering the age for the jab will help quicken the pace.

According to Animesh Arya, Senior Consultant in Respiratory Medicine at Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute in New Delhi, the period of vaccination at centres should also be extended so that more beneficiaries are ensured to get it.

“To ensure more vaccination, pilot projects can also be run in crowded areas through administration with better management. Also younger people who are physically fit may be potential asymptomatic carrier of the infection, hence they should also have a certain criteria to get vaccinated,” Arya told IANS.

Navneet Sood, Pulmonary Consultant, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, said that the age bar for vaccination should be brought down now so that more people come under this category and get the all-important jab.

The country is aiming to more than double the production of Covid vaccines to 14 crore doses a month by August, according to reports.

The Serum Institute of India (SII) is aiming to expand its capacity by April end or early May by another 4-5 crore doses. At present, Serum Institute can reportedly produce more than 7 crore doses a month.

Currently, Bharat Biotech is producing more than 40 lakh doses of Covaxin per month at its Hyderabad-based plant.

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