India hits two billion shots in Covid battle

Published on Jul 18, 2022 12:10 AM IST

The two billionth dose came on Sunday, 547 days after the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine was administered on January 16, 2021.

Among adults, 98% of the eligible population has now had one dose. (ANI)
Among adults, 98% of the eligible population has now had one dose. (ANI)
ByAbhishek Jha and Rhythma Kaul, New Delhi

The two billionth dose of a Covid-19 vaccine was delivered in the country at 12.16pm on Sunday, a moment representing an important milestone in the country’s coronavirus vaccination drive that navigated massive challenges of supply, scale and coordination, especially for a middle-income country.

But significant challenges still remain, especially since only a fraction of the people eligible are showing up for booster shots and the waning of immunity in those that were dosed over six months ago potentially further weakened by newer variants of the coronavirus.

“India creates history again! Congrats to all Indians on crossing the special figure of 200 crore (two billion) vaccine doses. Proud of those who contributed to making India’s vaccination drive unparalleled in scale and speed. This has strengthened the global fight against Covid-19,” tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday.

Also Read | ‘India creates history again’: PM Modi on 2 billion Covid vaccine doses milestone

The two billionth dose came 547 days after the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine was administered on January 16, 2021. If split into equal numbers of 500 million, the latest half billion doses were given over 191 days, significantly longer than the 78 days in which an equal number of shots was delivered before that.

“Greater Goals, Bigger Victories! Overcoming all the odds, India under PM @NarendraModi Ji’s leadership has achieved the new milestone of 200 Crore Vaccinations. A moment to remember forever! The world’s largest vaccination drive has been consistently creating new records,” said Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya in a tweet.

Among adults, 98% of the eligible population has now had one dose, while 90% have taken both their doses. In booster doses, however, the numbers are far less impressive: only 6% of all adults who can now take a third shot have gotten it, according to data compiled by HT from government releases.

In absolute numbers, India’s two billion doses are only second to China’s 3.41 billion doses. The other top countries, in order of the maximum doses delivered, are United States, Brazil, Indonesia and Japan, according to University of Oxford’s Our World in Data Covid-19 vaccination tracker.

Also Read | India Covid-19 vaccination drive sets 2 billion dose-record in just 18 months

In per capita terms, however, India’s vaccination coverage is fourth among the five-most populous countries, ahead of only Pakistan. China, the only nation with a higher population than India’s, has delivered 239 doses per 100 people, while United States, the country with the third highest population, has delivered over 180 shots per 100 people. For Indonesia, which ranks third in population, this number was 154.63 while for Pakistan it was a little over 120 doses per 100. India, with the world’s second-largest population, delivered a little over 142 doses per 100 people.

India currently is reporting nearly 20,000 new Covid cases in a day, with states such as Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Odisha contributing most of the new cases.

But hospitalisation and fatality rates have remained under control, a phenomenon that experts attribute to a milder variant being in circulation, high vaccination rates and high levels of past exposure, which too confers some degree of protection.

“We managed to vaccinate a substantial percentage of our population quite quickly, which had an impact on keeping the overall death and hospitalisation numbers low. It has been well-established that all vaccines work in preventing severe Covid disease; in certain variants, it may work less but overall vaccines are effective. People should take their booster shots as soon as they become eligible,” said Dr GC Khilnani, former head, department of pulmonology and sleep medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences.

At least 85% of the doses administered have been of Covishield (the brand name under which Pune-based Serum Institute of India has been manufacturing the vaccine developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca), 10% doses have been of Covaxin (the shot developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the country’s apex biomedical research regulator, the Indian Council of Medical Research), and the remaining 5% shots are of the Russia-made Sputnik V, Hyderabad-based Biological E’s Corbevax, and Serum Institute of India’s second Covid vaccine, Covovax.

According to the Co-WIN cashboard, an average of 32,827 vaccination centres were being used, of which 31,685 are run by the government. Beginning July 15, the government announced that vaccines will be free for people at centres run by it for the next 75 days as part of the government’s Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav programme.

“Several systematic interventions were also carried out in ensuring capacity building for carrying out this nationwide exercise. Existing supply chain for storage and transport of Covid-19 vaccines was leveraged and strengthened and effective monitoring of vaccine distribution and assured availability and efficient utilisation of vaccines and syringes was ensured at all times,” said the health ministry in a statement.

VK Paul, member (health), Niti Aayog, said: “India is perhaps the only country that started distributing Covid vaccine to other countries at the start of its own programme.”

“The PM mentioned this early on that India’s vaccines are meant not just for the country but to benefit all. And that’s why India started providing vaccines also to other countries even when it had just started vaccinating its own people,” he said.

This, however, was a source of controversy last year when in the aftermath of the deadly second wave of infections, opposition parties questioned the decision to give away doses when there was a shortage reported by many states. Vaccine makers were then briefly restrained from exporting shots.

According to officials, the government is now focusing on promoting booster doses since the uptake has been low. The health ministry has revived the door-to-door campaign known as Har Ghar Dastak to reach out to those who are yet to take the vaccine, have not completed the primary course, or are due for their booster dose.

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