India announces it will complete COVID-19 vaccination campaign by December despite vaccine shortage
NEW DELHI: India announced on Friday that it will vaccinate its entire population by December, despite growing criticism of its slow vaccination campaign.
India began its deployment on January 16 and has so far inoculated only 3% of its population of 1.3 billion.
It is currently facing a devastating second wave, with the coronavirus killing at least 318,000 people since the start of the pandemic according to official figures. The media and independent agencies, however, say the death toll could be several times higher.
“India’s immunization program is strong and by December we will be able to immunize over 100 million Indians (1 billion),” Information Minister Prakash Javadekar said during a briefing. press conference.
His announcement came as the country’s immunization rate has slowed in recent weeks to 2 million people per day, down from between 3.5 and 4 million people last month.
“Last week, the Department of Health made it clear that in December the country will produce 216 crore (2.16 billion) doses of COVID-19 vaccines, meaning that at least 108 crore people will be able to receive their vaccine, ”Javadekar said.
The country is currently counting on two “made in India” jabs. Covishield is the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII), while the local Covaxin is produced by Bharat Biotech.
Until April, SII and Bharat Biotech could produce 64 million doses per month. With the government’s announcement of financial support for businesses, they should be able to produce 120 million doses per month from August.
With the number of doses produced perhaps insufficient to cover the 900 million people eligible for vaccination, the government in April approved the use of Sputnik V, which the Russian Institute for Epidemiology and Microbiology Gamaleya will begin to use. produce in India from July.
While the Russian drug maker plans to produce just 100 million doses per year, India is in talks with other countries to import the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and other available vaccines.
Health experts and politicians, however, are not optimistic about the government’s success in reaching the new immunization target because it has already missed previous ones.
When India launched its vaccination campaign, it aimed to immunize 300 million people over 45 and frontline health workers. However, in April it was only able to vaccinate 112 million people.
On Friday, the opposition congressional party accused the government of not having a vaccination strategy.
“The problem is that there is no vaccination strategy,” Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said at a press conference. “If the vaccinations continue at this rate, we will have a third and a fourth wave because the virus is going to mutate.”
Professor Rama Baru, Center for Social and Community Medicine at Jawaharlal Nehru University, said opening the market to foreign vaccines would not solve the crisis as most of them would not be available until July and August.
“Planning for immunization preparedness has been poor since January,” he told Arab News. “There was enough data to suggest there would be a second wave, but we weren’t prepared both in terms of prevention and hospitals. The main bottleneck has been the estimation of vaccine supply. The vaccine rollout plan was poorly managed and therefore coverage was very low. When the second wave hit, the vaccine shortage was apparent and the center was a silent onlooker.