India has become the sixth country to cross 2 million doses, but the pace is much slower than is needed to meet the August target. Meanwhile, the virus threat continued to recede across the country, except in Kerala
India this week became the sixth country to administer more than 2 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine, even as the infection spread continued to subside. Nearly two weeks into the ambitious vaccination drive, Karnataka led the way with over 264,000 doses by Wednesday. Kerala, the only state where the virus is still spreading fast, has given 82,514 doses so far.
But turnouts at vaccination camps are a challenge. To meet the August target of inoculating 300 million citizens, India needs to give 1.3 million doses a day. The current pace is a lot slower, at less than 200,000 a day, as some doubt the jab’s safety.
The Centre has directed states to act against those spreading rumours about vaccines.
Nine health workers have died so far after getting vaccinated, though the Centre denies any link with the shot.
Globally, 80.3 million vaccine doses have been given so far, according to Our World in Data. Of these, 23.5 million were in the United States, followed by 15 million in China.
By Wednesday, Israel had fully vaccinated nearly 17% of its population, followed by the United Arab Emirates (2.5%) and Iceland (1.4%). No one has been vaccinated fully so far in India as both vaccines being used in the country need two doses spaced a few weeks apart.
Meanwhile, the covid-19 threat is increasingly receding in the country. Just over 90,000 cases were reported in the last seven days, shows data from the health ministry. The death count this week was 978, the lowest since June. With this, India’s total case-load reached 10.7 million by Thursday morning, of which 153,847 have died.
Nearly 46% of the new cases were in Kerala, and 19% in Maharashtra. Kerala is the only state where active cases are still rising sharply even a year after it reported India’s first coronavirus patient. The state has 72,476 active cases as of Thursday morning, out of a total of 173,740 nationwide. Maharashtra has 44,624 of them, and Uttar Pradesh is next, with 6,368.
In terms of deaths, Kerala fares better than Maharashtra, which accounted for nearly one-third of India’s covid-related deaths this week. Only six states and Union territories crossed the 50 mark, and eight did not report any death at all.
The virus menace in Kerala is spread across districts. All 14 of them, barring Kasargod, added more than 1,500 cases this week, shows data compiled by howindialives.com. The case-load is rising the fastest in Pathanamthitta, Idukki and Wayanad, each of which recorded an 8% rise last week.
The southern state continues to test aggressively but its positivity rate is still alarmingly high. Almost 10% of all people tested in the last two weeks turned positive for the virus, compared to 1.9% nationally.
Meanwhile, the number of people who tested positive for the UK variant of the virus in India rose to 153.
More variants have been reported in recent days, particularly from South Africa and Brazil. Fortunately, early studies show the vaccines developed so far could be effective against the new variants as well.
However, the pace of getting everyone vaccinated varies across the world. Earlier this week, pharma company AstraZeneca cut off vaccine supplies to the EU due to production issues. The decision has irked the bloc, as Pfizer, another manufacturer, had made a similar announcement just days before.
This means the developing world could be having it even worse. South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa even accused rich countries of hoarding vaccines, and urged them to give up excess doses that they have ordered.
This is crucial for global economic recovery, as experts increasingly warn that the covid-19 war cannot be won if vaccination is spread unequally. A new study, led by Cem Çakmaklı of the Koç University, Turkey, found that inequitable distribution of vaccines could hurt advanced economies too, to the tune of up to 3.7% of their 2019 GDP, because of potential disruptions to global trade and supply chains.
This is a warning to India as well: protecting its own citizens won’t be enough. On its part, the country has begun shipping supplies to neighbouring countries such as Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, and Nepal free of cost, and more is in store. The new US administration even lauded India for this effort, calling it a "true friend".
The message to the rich world is clear: just like the global infection phase, the recovery phase cannot be isolated either.