India gives 4 million covid vaccine doses, but pace slower than expected

Noida: A medic administers the dose of COVID-19 vaccine on a beneficiary during the vaccination drive across the country, at a district hospital in Noida, Friday, Jan. 29, 2021. (PTI Photo)(PTI01_29_2021_000190B) (PTI)
Noida: A medic administers the dose of COVID-19 vaccine on a beneficiary during the vaccination drive across the country, at a district hospital in Noida, Friday, Jan. 29, 2021. (PTI Photo)(PTI01_29_2021_000190B) (PTI)


  • At the current pace, India’s target to vaccinate 300 million people by August could get delayed by two months, according to a recent Barclays Research report

On 30 January 2020, India recorded its first coronavirus case. A year has passed since, and vaccinations are gradually picking up. After losing more than 154,000 people to the pandemic, India has now become the fastest in the world to give more than 4 million vaccine doses.

India took 18 days since the first shot to reach this mark, the US took 20 days, and the UK and Israel took more than a month each. But India’s large population means other countries have reached a far greater share of their people through their vaccination programmes.

The target is to vaccinate 300 million Indians by August, but the current pace is too slow for that. At this rate, India would reach that mark only by October, even accounting for other upcoming vaccines, Barclays Research estimated in a report dated 2 February. By year-end, only 32% population would be protected from the virus, the lowest among emerging Asian economies, the report said.

Kerala, where the infection is still spreading, has the best vaccination rate, shows latest available data from the Union health ministry. The state has administered seven doses per thousand people, followed by Gujarat, Uttarakhand, and Karnataka (around five per thousand).

Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan lead in terms of absolute numbers.

Globally, nearly as many vaccine shots have been given in seven weeks as the all-time number of people who got infected with the virus. Both numbers stand at around 104 million as of Thursday morning. However, this does not mean that as many people have been fully vaccinated, as all vaccines in use currently need multiple doses.

Israel has fully vaccinated over 21% of its population, numbers from Our World in Data show. The share is 2.5% in the UAE and 1.8% in the US. India’s share is not yet clear, as the country releases numbers for doses, not people vaccinated.

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Meanwhile, India’s covid-19 case count continues to show sharp improvement. Just 88,890 new cases were reported in the past seven days—fewer than 15,000 cases a day on average, shows government data. Almost 44% of these came from Kerala alone, and 20% from Maharashtra.

These two states have 70% of the 155,025 active cases as on Thursday morning. Andaman and Nicobar Islands became the first to become free of the virus this week.

With this, India’s total case-load has reached 10.79 million, of which 154,635 have died.

The number of daily deaths has also come down significantly. Half of all 856 deaths last week were in Maharashtra (32%) and Kerala (16%). Nearly all other states recorded fewer than 50 new deaths in the past week.

Kerala’s positivity rate—the likelihood of a coronavirus test turning positive—is rising. Of every 100 tests the state conducted in the last two weeks, 11 turned positive, while the average for India was less than two.

The outbreak is spread across the 14 districts of the state. Barring Kasargod, all others added more than 1,000 cases this week, shows data compiled by on Wednesday evening. The case-load is rising the fastest in Pathanamthitta and Idukki, each of which recorded a 7% rise in the period.

However, public attention has largely moved from the infection to the vaccine. Two more major vaccines announced interim efficacy results: Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) vaccine showed 72% efficacy in the US and 66% overall, while a vaccine developed by US firm Novavax showed 89.3% efficacy, with promising results on the UK variant of the virus.

The single-dose J&J vaccine could be a relief for low-income countries that face huge distribution challenges with other jabs. Data from Duke Global Health Innovation Centre shows that of the 1 billion J&J vaccine doses ordered worldwide, more than 60% was by African Union and COVAX, an umbrella facility for mostly low-income countries.

On Monday, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman proposed a special Rs35,000-crore funding for coronavirus vaccines in India’s Union budget for 2021-22. India has shown both optimism and willingness for the vaccination drive, and confidence is building up. The next step is to pace up vaccination, as that will help the country make a faster return to normal economic activity.

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