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Thursday, December 02, 2021

100 crore jabs: An Indian achievement

The vaccination success story is just a trailer of what our collective Amrit Prayaas can achieve.

Written by Akhilesh Mishra |
October 21, 2021 9:38:03 pm
A healthcare worker at Mumbai's Rajawadi Hospital celebrates the milestone of India administering one billion coronavirus vaccine doses. (Express photo/Amit Chakravarty)

As India achieved the landmark of administering 100 crore Covid-19 vaccines on October 21, it is time to reflect on this momentous journey. Sceptics, naysayers, professional discord seeders, and other assorted disrupters tried in various ways to either halt this journey or at least disrupt it. However, it is to our credit as people that we overcame these challenges and achieved this landmark.

Consider for a moment the scale of 100 crore doses. The population of the US is just over 33 crore. This means India could have vaccinated the US population — not just adults but the entire population — with two doses and yet be left with a sufficient quantity of vaccines to give a booster dose to the entire population! Incidentally, the US has so far only managed to give 41 crore doses and has fully vaccinated just over 57 per cent of its population.

Or take Europe. With a combined population of approximately 75 crore, India could have given one dose to every European and administered a second dose to over 1/3rd of the population. Europe, incidentally, has so far administered just about 83 crore doses.

Why are these numbers significant? In the initial months, one of the comparisons used to underplay India’s achievement was to count the percentage population partially or fully vaccinated. Because of the vast differential between the Indian population compared to any other country (except China), India seemed to fare badly. What this analysis missed was the fact that production capacities are finite and cannot be ramped up instantly to any number. No matter how elastic the production in a particular factory is, it can produce only finite quantities in a given time. If a country’s adult population is two crore then it needs just about four crore doses to fully vaccinate its people. India needs almost 200 crore doses to fully vaccinate its adult population. The sheer time required to produce 200 crore doses, going by just common sense, is many times more than what is required to produce four crore doses. In the interval that it takes to produce such large quantities, India’s percentage population coverage was obviously low — but for professional India bashers, this became another opportunity, albeit sans any understanding of the issue.

And yet, within no time, India has outpaced the entire world, except China, in not just production but also in the administration of vaccines.

Think of another statistic. The US, home to many vaccine producers and manufacturers, started administering vaccines almost a month before India. So far, it has administered about 41 crore does in its country and exported another 20 crores. By contrast, India has administered over 100 crore doses at home and exported an additional six crore doses under Vaccine Maitri in the first half of the year and a further 40 core doses (10 crore each) in October to Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Iran.

If vaccine production is one end of this success story, the administering logistics supply chain is the other. The entire government machinery — from the central government right down to block and tehsil levels — came together to pull off this effort. State governments run by different political formations have all joined in this whole-of-government approach pioneered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. From Uttar Pradesh leading the vaccination charge to states like Himachal Pradesh, Goa, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Assam, Maharashtra and many others, all have contributed significantly in India achieving this landmark.

The logistics supply chain from factory-to-field and the last mile administering capacity has performed, day after day, every day, for over nine months now. From the snow-clad mountains of the Himalayas, to the deserts of Rajasthan and from the rain-soaked forests of the Northeast to the backwaters of Kerala — the continental scale of India’s delivery mechanism has been tested and proven itself once again and at a billion-plus scale. A painful second wave was also weathered during this vaccination exercise and yet, the frontline health workers have not let their dedication dim.

So, what explains this momentous feat? In an article a few weeks ago, I had analysed the one essential trait of Prime Minister Modi — Amrit Prayaas or Relentless Essayer — in the 20 years of him being the head of an elected government. The article had ended with these hopeful lines — “As we enter the Amrit Kaal — the year between the 75th and 100th year of India’s Independence, imagine the scale of possibilities if all of us, in our little ways, become Amrit Prayaasis”. The vaccination landmark story is just a trailer of what our collective Amrit Prayaas can achieve. Imagine the possibilities if we imbibe this learning and become Amrit Prayaasis in all our endeavours.

The writer is CEO, Bluekraft Digital Foundation and was earlier director (content), MyGov

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