While cumulative Covid-19 vaccine doses administered to healthcare and frontline workers in India have crossed one crore, the country may have to rework the strategy and further expedite vaccination drive to reach the target of 30 crore by July.
While the target in the first phase is to cover 3 crore people (1 crore healthcare and 2 crore frontline workers) with two doses, it took 34 days to reach one crore dose of vaccination. The Government is yet to finalise a strategy for vaccinating 27 crore elderly in India in the next phase. The Government target was to vaccinate over three million people per day. A couple of days ago, the Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan had said three weeks from now, the government would start giving doses of coronavirus vaccines to priority group, people above the age of 50. The expert group for Covid-19 vaccination is still working on the final strategy, he said.
The health ministry today said India is the second-fastest to achieve the landmark feat of 1 crore vaccinations. The US was the fastest with 31 days, followed by India (34 days) and the UK (56 days).
In early January, the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) had approved two vaccines, Covaxin of Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India's Covishield, for "restricted use" in "emergency" conditions. According to the Government, a total of 1,01,88,007 vaccine doses have been administered through 2,11,462 sessions, as per the provisional report till 8 am today. These include 62,60,242 HCWs (1st dose), 6,10,899 HCWs (2nd dose) and 33,16,866 FLWs (1st dose). The 2nd dose vaccination started on 13th February for those beneficiaries who have completed 28 days after receipt of the 1st dose. Vaccination of the FLWs started on 2nd Feb 2021. As on Day-34 of the vaccination drive (18th February ), a total of 6,58,674 vaccine doses were given. The Government said the country is witnessing a progressive increase in vaccinations day by day.
Sources said public sector HLL Lifecare, the designated agency for vaccine procurement and distribution to states, had procured about 11 million doses of Covishield from Serum Institute, and nearly 5 million doses from Bharat Biotech by early February. Serum had stockpiled over 50 million doses of Covishield before the approval. Currently, Serum is making 10 million doses a month, with a strategy of reserving half the production for India.
There are a couple of factors that led to vaccine hesitancy even among health care workers, sources said. Emergency approval for Covaxin was given even before final data clearance and many healthcare workers were reluctant to take that vaccine. Besides, healthcare workers have to travel to designated centres for receiving the doses, instead of getting the injection at their workplace itself, or the hospitals. The Government is yet to rope in private hospitals in a big way in the vaccination process, which is likely to happen only in the next phase.
Seven states - Gujarat, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Karnataka, Himachal, and Telangana - accounted for 60.85% of the second vaccine doses so far administered in India. At present, 87% of all new cases reported are in only six states, led by Maharashtra (5427 cases) and Kerala (4584 cases), as 13,193 cases were reported yesterday. India's total Active Caseload currently stands at 1.39 lakh (1,39,542) today. The active caseload now is 1.27% of India's total positive cases.