The hype around tika utsav failed to lift India’s vaccination drive last week. Amid complaints of vaccine shortage and rising infections, herd immunity seems far away, calculations show
The four-day ‘tika utsav’, or ‘vaccine festival’, came to an end on 14 April amidst fast-rising covid-19 cases. Despite the hype, India’s vaccinations slowed down in this period compared to the previous week. If the recent pace continues, India won’t reach 70% vaccine coverage until December 2021, a Mint analysis shows.
In the 12th week of vaccinations (3-9 April), 22.6 million Indians got their first dose, the highest so far. This reduced to 18.6 million in the following week, lending credence to claims that India was falling short of doses. For remote areas in several states, the vaccine drive was put to a halt by stock outages, even as the Centre denied any shortage in vaccine supply.
Part of the failure of the ‘tika utsav’ in boosting the pace comes from production constraints. At present, Serum Institute of India produces 70 million to 100 million doses of Covishield per month, while Bharat Biotech makes 12 million doses of Covaxin per month. Every week, this gives new stock of only around 25 million vaccines.
If foreign vaccines are cleared sooner, like the recent clearance of Sputnik V, the pool of available vaccines can increase.
To inoculate 70% of the population with the first dose by August 2021, India must double the speed, our calculations show. If shortages slow down the pace to half, it could take until September 2022 to reach that goal. The current rate used for the analysis is 22.6 million a week, the highest pace seen so far.
A constant rate is assumed to arrive at a ballpark figure, though this can change as production and supply improve. The 70% population mark is widely considered as a reasonable level of herd immunity.
Just 7% Indians have got at least one vaccine dose so far. To put this in context, almost 21.5% of the population is believed to have been infected by covid-19, a serosurvey conducted by Indian Council of Medical Research in February shows. If the ‘tika utsav’ is a measure of the full capacity of the Indian machinery, the country has a long wait ahead to protect its citizens from the pandemic.
Surbhi Bhatia is a Mumbai-based journalist.
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