Updated: June 24, 2021 7:32:55 am
India’s revamped Covid vaccination drive began on an optimistic note on Monday with a record 86 lakh people receiving the jab. Though this number fell to about 53 lakh on Tuesday, the government sees no cause for worry. It reportedly estimates the daily rate of vaccination to stabilise at about 45 lakh shots. This is certainly a marked improvement from the past two months when the country was hard-pressed to inoculate 20 lakh people daily. Yet, the scale of India’s vaccination challenge is such that the country’s anti-Covid task force and its vaccine manufacturers have their work cut out. The first imperative is to ensure that supplies to states are sustained over the coming weeks and months. The fact that the previous record-setting day — April 5, when 43 lakh doses were administered — was followed by a two-and-a-half-month long downturn in the inoculation drive should be reason enough to guard against complacency. More importantly, the daily vaccination target must be geared towards meeting the government’s goal of administering 200 crore shots by the end of the year. At 45 lakh shots a day, it is likely that the project could spill over to the first quarter of 2022 — not a very reassuring scenario given the caprices of the virus.
About 30 crore people have received at least one shot of the vaccine so far — less than 6 crore have received both the shots. Ensuring both shots to the country’s nearly 100 crore adult population would require more than 80 lakh vaccines every day till the end of 2021. Last month, the government indicated that it had a roadmap to ensure supplies — a lion’s share of the vaccines will be manufactured in the country by the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech. But these companies do not always seem to be on the same page with the government on the economics of production. The revamped vaccine policy with tweaks in the pricing structure seems to have added to their discomfiture. The government has no time to lose in sorting out all issues that could create bottlenecks in vaccine supply with the manufacturers.
Epidemiologists in most parts of the world, including India, now believe that people will require booster doses for long-term immunity against the novel coronavirus — this thinking has acquired increased traction with the virus mutating into potentially more infectious variants. Developed countries, which have administered the shots to more than 50 per cent of their population, are now gearing up to meet this challenge next year. Indian policymakers need to be alert to this imperative. But first, they must ensure scrupulous adherence to the deadlines set for 2021.
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