As the stock of unused Covid-19 vaccines with the states increases, the clock is ticking for the government to meet the deadline of inoculating all adults by next month. Even after 300 days since the beginning of its mega vaccination drive, India managed to give the first dose to nearly 80 per cent of its population, while not even 40 per cent of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated.
The numbers, as promising as they may appear on paper, may not spell a secure future for India with Europe and Central Asia in point — both are witnessing a fresh wave of coronavirus as cases increase at a rapid rate. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every single country in Europe and Central Asia is facing a real threat of Covid-19 resurgence, or already fighting it.
The WHO cited insufficient vaccination coverage and relaxation of public health and social measures as the reason behind this. While the cases in India are not rising, the other two conditions are valid.
On Friday, India completed 301 days of its Covid-19 vaccination drive and the country has administered more than 111 crore doses. The pace of vaccination was fast in August and September, but has dropped since October.
India started its vaccination drive against coronavirus on January 16 and opened it for all above 18 years from May 1. Initially, the pace of vaccination was slow due to several reasons. However, after June, it started gaining momentum and nearly 12 crore doses were administered in June. In July, this increased to over 13.45 crore. Further, against the monthly vaccination of 18.38 crore in August and 23.60 crore in September, October recorded 17.29 crore doses, the Union Health Ministry data shows.
Collectively, August and September were responsible for about 40 per cent of the total vaccinations. These were the months when the country was expecting the third wave of the coronavirus infection. However, the daily cases have dropped drastically over the last few weeks.
In October, India completed the milestone of 100 crore doses administered. The government had announced that it will administer double doses of anti-Covid jabs to the entire 18 plus population by December.
However, over the last few weeks, the stock of unused vaccines has increased drastically as the vaccination drive was impacted amid the festive season. The government has provided over 121 crore vaccine doses to states/UTs so far. As of Friday, more than 18.04 crore balance and unutilised vaccine doses were available with the states/UTs. On November 1, states and UTs had more than 13 crore balance and unutilised vaccine doses and on October 15, this number was just 10.53 crore. On October 1, this stock was just five crore doses.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a review meeting with districts having low vaccination coverage. The meeting included districts with less than 50 per cent coverage of the first dose and low coverage of the second dose of Covid vaccine. PM Modi interacted with District Magistrates of over 40 districts from Jharkhand, Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Maharashtra and Meghalaya.
The prime minister also pushed for doorstep vaccination as he gave the mantra of ‘Har Ghar Dastak’ and said there is now a move to take the vaccination campaign to every household to help and motivate people to take the shot.
As the world sees a surge in cases, it is time for people to realise that the pandemic is not over and vaccination is needed to avoid another deadly wave of the infection.