Health ministry to celebrate 1 billion Covid vaccine doses in October
With over 7.4 million doses administered on Friday, a total of 848 million vaccine doses have been administered across India, according health ministry data till Friday night
The Union health ministry is making plans to celebrate India administering 1 billion coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccine doses by early October – a milestone that is likely to coincide with Narendra Modi completing 20 years as the head of a government over his 13 years as Gujarat chief minister and his second term as Prime Minister.
People familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity that the ideas being floated among senior functionaries to mark the occasion include, among others, felicitating the 100 beneficiaries who took the shot, or those who participated in clinical trials.
“India is conducting the largest vaccination drive in the world, and it will be a momentous occasion when we complete administering one billion vaccine shots which is more than the population of some countries. Therefore, it is only fitting to celebrate the occasion as several agencies and people across the country have worked really hard to make this happen,” one of the officials in the ministry said.
“Several interesting ideas are being floated such as whether to felicitate Covid warriors, or first 100 beneficiaries who took the shot, or those having participated in clinical trials among others or all of them on the occasion,” a second government functionary said.
With over 7.4 million doses administered on Friday, a total of 848 million vaccine doses have been administered across India, according health ministry data till Friday night. Of the roughly 940 million adults eligible for shots, nearly 67% (626.7 million people) have received at least the one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, and about 23.6% (221.5 million people) have got both jabs in the drive that started on January 16.
An average of 9 million doses have been administered daily in the past five days. At this rate, India appears set to touch the 1 billion dose mark in the second week of October.
Modi took over at Gujarat chief minister for the first time on October 7, 2001.
“It is incidental that the PM will also be completing 20 years as the head of a government; even though the date for both the events may not exactly be the same. It is likely to be close but likely not the same date. As per the trends, one billion jabs should complete around second week of October,” added the second official quoted above.
Last week, on September 17, India set a world vaccination record for a single day by delivering 25 million doses to mark Modi’s 71st birthday – an achievement that was hailed for the numbers hit but the Opposition questioned linking the boost in numbers with a personal milestone for the PM.
There is also a possibility of a small event being held offline to commemorate the achievement.
At pace of vaccination in the past five days (7.5 million doses /day), all Indian are likely to be fully vaccinated by early February. This would mean that, unless the daily rate is upped to 10.4 million daily doses, India will miss the December 31 target set by the Union government in a statement to the Supreme Court.
So far, six states and Union territories have completed administering at least the first dose to all adults – Lakshadweep, Chandigarh, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, and Sikkim. Four states and Union territories have administered first dose to at least 90% of the adults – Kerala, Uttarakhand, Ladakh, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli.
At the bottom end of the spectrum, lie Jharkhand (first doses administered to 52.9% adults), West Bengal (53.7% adults having received a single dose) and Uttar Pradesh (55.2%).
To be sure, the vaccination rate has increased manifold over the past five months – from an average of 1.9 million doses a day in May, when the drive was opened up for all adults to 8.14 million doses a day in September.
“We have reached the stage where government is able to provide states the volume of doses they demand based on their vaccine administration capacity. No state can now be seen complaining that they were in a position to administer more vaccine doses than what they were administering in a single day but were not doing that because of the short vaccine supply from the centre,” said the first official cited above.
Experts say government would need to focus on states that are lagging to be able to meet the year-end target.
“We have seen north and central Indian states exhibit vaccine hesitancy even for traditional vaccines, which needs to be dealt with for the vaccine coverage to expand as per requirement. However, there is no denying that the overall vaccination rate has seen significant improvement which is a good sign,” said Chandrakant Lahariya, senior public health and vaccine expert.