100-crore Covid-19 vaccinations: Journey so far & challenges ahead

While India has managed to clear a remarkable milestone, challenges still remain
Last Updated 21 October 2021, 09:47 IST

On Thursday, India became the second country after China to achieve the milestone of administering 100-crore Covid-19 vaccine doses. The demand for the second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine has overtaken the demand for the first dose since October 13 and the trend has continued, indicating another phase in the vaccination drive that is set to protect over a billion people from the deadly virus.

Congratulating the country for the achievement, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, "India scripts history. We are witnessing the triumph of Indian science, enterprise and collective spirit of 130 crore Indians."

While India has managed to achieve a remarkable milestone, challenges still remain. Countries like the US and Israel have moved their focus to booster shots for the vulnerable and have also begun vaccinating children. India is still yet to decide on either of those fronts. Besides, the government's target of vaccinating all adults by the end of the year appears ambitious.

Journey so far

India approved the emergency use of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca-Oxford University on January 3 this year. The vaccine is manufactured in India by the Serum Institute of India under the brand name Covishield, a two-dose regime. Another tool in the arsenal is Bharat Biotech's Covaxin, an indigenous vaccine that has failed to ramp up production to be on par with Serum's jab. Covaxin has reportedly only contributed 10-11 per cent of total vaccinations.

Hailed as the world's biggest vaccination drive by the Modi government, health workers on January 16 became the first group to receive the much-needed protection against a virus that has claimed the lives of over 49 lakh people worldwide. And in February, a category of frontline workers was formed to make them eligible for the vaccine.

India approved the third vaccine in April. Russia's Sputnik V was given a go-ahead amid rising Covid-19 cases and deaths in the country. The surge of cases snowballed into a massive second wave of the pandemic in the country with half of all Covid-19 deaths reported during the summer.

As patients filled the blocks of hospitals and ICUs across the country, the government was cornered to open vaccinations for all on May 1. But India also saw an acute shortage of vaccines as a large number of fear-driven people drove to the vaccination centres.

The month of May saw a massive dip in vaccinations, mainly owing to crunch in supplies while many states maintained restrictions to stop the spread of the virus.

On June 12, India marked the completion of 25 crore vaccine doses -- 148 days after the vaccination drive began. Next 25 crore vaccinations came on August 26, taking 56 days this time

August also saw the approval of Zydus Cadila's Covid jab, a three-shot system that can be administered to children as young as 12. The vaccine is expected to hit the markets soon. By the end of August, half of adults in the country had received at least one dose of the vaccine.

75 crore vaccinations came on September 13, indicating steady progress in the drive. And then, on September 17, India administered a record of over 2 crore Covid-19 vaccines. The day also marked Modi's birthday.

In between, the Centre, along with civic and social groups, launched various initiatives to eradicate vaccine hesitancy in the country and encouraged people to get inoculated. Among other things, a drone delivery system was introduced to ensure vaccine delivery to remote areas of the country.

Challenges ahead

While administering 100-crore vaccine doses was not an easy task to achieve, the yawning gap between the number of people fully vaccinated and those who have received just one dose is massive. Only a third of the century figure have received both doses, while the three-month gap between the two does of Covishield continues to be in place.

And worryingly, as schools across the country slowly reopen, millions of children are yet to receive a single shot of the vaccine. Experts have also warned of complacency in the vaccination drive as Covid-19 cases in the country plateau at around 13,000 cases.

Vaccine hesitancy continues to be prevalent in pockets of rural areas, and with effectively all restrictions eased, the government faces the challenge to continue incentivising vaccinations.

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(Published 21 October 2021, 07:53 IST)

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