The pace is picking up, as around 37% of the 7 million doses were given just in the last seven days. But the pace needs to be much faster in the next phase for India to meet its targets
India paced up its covid-19 vaccination drive this week, becoming the quickest in the world to go past 7 million vaccine doses on Wednesday. Around 37% of these doses were given in just the last seven days. But with some states still lagging in progress, the health ministry has now come up with strict deadlines for completing the first phase.
Starting Saturday, India will get its first set of fully-vaccinated healthcare and frontline workers. The ones who got their first dose on 16 January, the first day of vaccination, will get their second and final dose from that day, the health ministry said.
States have been asked to complete the first-round vaccination of all healthcare workers by 20 February.
So far, 57% of the registered healthcare workers and 13% of the registered frontline workers have got their first dose, the ministry said. The coverage is less than 40% in seven states and Union territories, including Punjab and Tamil Nadu, and has exceeded 65% in 13 states, including Kerala, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. As a proportion of states’ populations, Gujarat and Kerala have the best progress, with over nine doses given per 1,000 people. Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Odisha are close, with around eight doses administered per 1,000 people.
After healthcare workers, the focus will turn to the elderly and those with health conditions. That phase will need to be much faster if India is to meet its aim of inoculating 300 million people by August. Israel has already completed all required doses for 26% of its population, followed by Seychelles (4%), data for Our World in Data shows. Overall, more vaccine shots have now been delivered (147 million) globally than the number of persons who got infected with the virus (107 million).
Meanwhile, the pandemic continued to weaken in India, with just 81,111 new cases of coronavirus infection recorded in the last seven days, government data showed. This was the lowest weekly jump since June. Kerala accounted for 47% of the new cases and Maharashtra 23%.
With this, India’s total case-load so far has risen to 10.87 million, of which 155,360 have died. Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu did not record any new case, and has no active case remaining. Andaman and Nicobar Islands had a short covid-free period, as the state has added 13 new cases.
The number of daily deaths has also come down significantly. Half of all 657 deaths in the last seven days were in Maharashtra (34%) and Kerala (19%). No other state recorded more than 50 deaths in the past week.
Kerala’s test positivity rate—the likelihood of a coronavirus test turning positive—has come down this week to 7% from 9-10% over the past month. However, this is still much higher than the national average of 1.7%. The outbreak is spread across all 14 districts of the state. Twelve of them added more than 1,000 cases this week, shows data compiled by howindialives.com on Wednesday evening. The case-load is rising the fastest in Pathanamthitta and Idukki, which recorded an 8% and 6% rise in the period, respectively.
Delhi, after controlling three waves of coronavirus, saw no deaths on Tuesday, a first since May.
The same was true for around 78% of all districts in India. Pune recorded 45 deaths, the highest in the country.
However, public attention has largely moved from the infection to the vaccine. India is receiving praise for supplying vaccine doses to several low-income and developing nations, with Afghanistan becoming the latest recipient this week. India is also supplying vaccines on a commercial basis, with 24 million doses approved for 25 countries this month so far, Hindustan Times reported.
Meanwhile, India ordered 10 million more doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from Serum Institute of India and 4.5 million more of the Covaxin jab from Bharat Biotech, Reuters reported.
These are the only two vaccines in use in India as of now, with several more awaiting the regulator’s nod.
With vaccinations finally picking up, India is ahead of most countries in terms of the pace of doses administered. But the large population means leading the way may hardly be enough. In the days to come, states with low vaccination rates will need to address administrative issues to get going, and must also inspire confidence in the vaccine.