India crosses 1 billion Covid vaccine mark, Covishield proves to be lynchpin of drive

Around 75 per cent of India's all eligible adult population has been administered at least the first dose and around 31 per cent has received both the doses of the vaccines.
A health worker adminsters vaccine jab to a receipient at a health centre in New Delhi. (Photo | Shekhar Yadav, EPS)
A health worker adminsters vaccine jab to a receipient at a health centre in New Delhi. (Photo | Shekhar Yadav, EPS)

NEW DELHI: After 279 days since the nationwide Covid vaccination drive was launched in India, the country on Thursday pulled off a remarkable feat of administering 100 crore vaccine doses, largely supported by the Covishield which has remained the lynchpin of the ambitious campaign.

The country’s target to fully vaccinate all the 93 crore adult population by the year-end might still be a long shot as so far only 31% of the 18-plus age group has received both doses of the vaccine against coronavirus.

On the occasion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a series of tweets called the achievement a "triumph of Indian science and the collective spirit of people."

“India scripts history,” he wrote. “We are witnessing the triumph of Indian science, enterprise and the collective spirit of 130 crore Indians. Congrats India on crossing 100 crore vaccinations. Gratitude to our doctors, nurses and all those who worked to achieve this feat.”

He also said that the vaccine has brought pride and protection to the lives of citizens.

By Thursday evening, a total of 1,00,57,42,472 Covid vaccine doses had been administered in India with the highest — 12.31 crore shots — given in the most populous state, Uttar Pradesh. Of the total doses administered, over 88% were that of the Serum Institute of India’s Covishield while Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin has remained a minor player.

Russia’s Sputnik V, also available in India since May in select parts, on the other hand, has had a very limited role in the country’s vaccination campaign.

India had started the vaccination campaign on January 16 this year and in the beginning, only healthcare workers were offered the shots. The drive however was later extended to frontline workers, before being opened up also for 60-plus population groups and those between 45 and 60 years with specified co-morbidities.

The vaccinations however started for all adults beginning May 1 and picked up speed from June 21 when the Centre revised its inoculation strategy and decided to supply 75% of all available vaccines to states after directly procuring them from manufacturers while permitting 25% of vaccines to be used by private hospitals at a price.

Despite the gain in the pace of vaccination over the last few months, the latest figures shared by the Union health ministry however showed that nearly 25% of the population has not received even one dose of Covid vaccine while 44% of the population is only partially vaccinated.

These figures are crucial as the Centre itself, on many occasions, had said that a large number of people with one dose of Covid vaccine are missing out on their scheduled second doses.

The experts on Thursday said that while the feat achieved by India is significant, it would need nearly 1.2 crore doses every day from now if it has to completely vaccinate all the adults by the year-end, as authorities had said before.

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The New Indian Express