1 BILLION COVID JABS: Is it too early to celebrate for India?

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staff of Ramaiah Hospital makes a rangoli displaying 'Jab Well Done, as India celebrates crossing the mark of 100 crore COVID-19 doses, in Bengaluru on Thursday. (ANI Photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government celebrates the milestone. No doubt, the vaccination program in India has rolled out well. But how is India doing in fully vaccinating its population as compared to other countries?

Our Bureau
New Delhi/Washington, DC

India achieved the landmark of administering 100 crore (1 billion) Covid-19 vaccines on Thursday. Following the development, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation, congratulating people over this accomplishment in the fight against the pandemic. Modi on Friday said the Central government made public participation the first line of defence in India’s fight against the pandemic.

Addressing the nation, the Prime Minister said India’s COVID vaccination campaign is ‘everybody’s effort’ and “if everyone’s efforts are synergised, the results are amazing.” “Our first line of defence against pandemic was public participation, as part of which people lit diyas, banged thalis. Some people had questioned saying ‘Will it help us get rid of the disease’…? Many people mocked when Indians banged thalis and lit diyas last year. However, it was India’s unity that was on display during those events,” he said.

The Prime Minister also noted that questions were raised that most of the people in India would not go to the vaccination centre to get vaccinated. “Vaccine hesitancy remains a major challenge even today in many major developed countries of the world. But the people of India have answered it by taking 100 crore vaccine doses,” he stated.

As per an official release, Prime Minister lauded the “difficult but remarkable feat” of administering 100 crore vaccine doses.

Doctor and Nursing Students celebrate India’s milestone of achieving the 100 crore Covid-19 vaccination mark, at Red Fort, in New Delhi on Thursday. (ANI Photo)

India’s COVID-19 vaccination drive was launched on January 16, 2021. Initially, the vaccination was opened for Health Care Workers (HCWs) only. From February 2, front line workers were made eligible for vaccination. These included state and Central Police personnel, Armed Force Personnel, Home Guards, Civil Defence and Disaster Management Volunteers, Municipal workers, Prison Staff, PRI Staff and Revenue workers involved in containment and surveillance, Railway Protection Force and election Staff.

The vaccination drive was expanded from March 1 to include persons above 60 years of age and those above 45 years with associated specified 20 comorbidities. It was further expanded to all people above 45 years of age from April 1. From May 1 all persons above 18 years of age were made eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.

India has so far reported 34.1 million COVID-19 cases and more than 452,000 deaths, most during a second wave of infections of the Delta variant between April and May.

But there are serious causes of concern.

A “sizeable number” of people in India have not taken their second dose by the due date despite adequate supplies, the health ministry said on Tuesday, as new infections fell to their lowest since early March. Daily shots have averaged 5 million this month, a fifth of September’s peak, though states are sitting on record stocks of more than 100 million as domestic output of the AstraZeneca vaccine soars.

Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Mansukh Mandaviya, Union MoS for Health and Family Welfare Dr.Bharati Pravin Pawar, SpiceJet CEO Ajay Singh and others at the unveiling of SpiceJet’s special aircraft livery to celebrate the achievement of 100 crore vaccine doses mark, at IGI Aiport, in New Delhi on Thursday. (ANI Photo)

Despite the current low number of infections, ministry officials have been urging people to get vaccinated fast, especially as the ongoing festival season means family gatherings and mass shopping, raising the risk of a new wave of infections.

According to the government’s Cowin data, India has been able to fully vaccinate just 30.8% of the nation’s 940 million adult population, while 43.7% of its population has received single jabs of the vaccine. It was able to achieve this feat in 278 days since the government initiated the vaccination drive on January 16 this year.

According to Our World in Data, India has administered more vaccines than the European Union, US, Japan, and Germany. In fact, India has administered more vaccine doses than any other country except China, the only two countries that have given a billion jabs to their population. Our World in Data is a collaborative effort between researchers at the University of Oxford, and Global Change Data Lab to collate worldwide data on Covid-19.

However, if seen as doses per 100 people, India’s number is well behind those of other countries. So far, India has administered 77.7 doses per 100 persons, lagging behind US that has administered 121.5 doses, Germany has 132 doses per 100 people of its population, China is at 149 doses, and European Union has given 129.2 doses per 100 people of its population.

But Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership and said India is going on the right path under his leadership. Rajiv Kumar said, “This achievement is historic. It tells us if we Indians are determined about something, we can achieve it.” He said, “We’re going on the right path under PM Modi’s leadership.”

Further, he highlighted that India would achieve the target of vaccinating the entire population by December end and said, “This achievement is proof that the way we are working, the target of vaccinating the entire population by December end would be accomplished.”

Also, Modi has thanked world leaders for their wishes on India crossing the 100 crore COVID-19 vaccinations mark. Several world leaders congratulated India on this achievement. In reply to a tweet by Bhutan Prime Minister Lotay Tshering, Prime Minister Modi said: “Thank you Lyonchhen Lotay Tshering for your kind words on this historic occasion. We deeply cherish our friendship with Bhutan! India remains committed in our fight against COVID-19 together with the region and the world.”

Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih took to Twitter to congratulate India for administering 1 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines. “Congratulations to PM @narendramodi and the government of India for administering 1 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines, displaying the innovation and solidarity of the Indian people. Thank you also, India, for supporting Maldives’ Covid-19 recovery and vaccination efforts,” he tweeted.

In reply to a tweet by Maldives President, the Prime Minister said: “Thank you President @ibusolih for your kind wishes. I am pleased to see the progress of the vaccination drive in the Maldives. As neighbours and close friends, our partnership to overcome COVID-19 has borne fruit.”

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett lauded Prime Minister Modi on leading India’s successful COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

“Congratulations to @narendramodi on leading India’s successful COVID-19 vaccination campaign that has now administered more than 1 billion vaccines to the Indian people. These life-saving vaccines are helping us all defeat the global pandemic,” Bennett said in a Twitter post.

A beneficiary receives a dose of COVID-19 vaccine on the day of India’s completing 100 crores vaccination dose mark, in Kolkata on Thursday. (ANI Photo)

Modi marked the occasion by interacting with healthcare workers and a security guard at a government hospital in New Delhi. The health ministry announced musical and other programmes across the country, and special illuminations of national monuments including a colonial-era jail.

Nearly 90% of the vaccines administered in India have come from the Serum Institute of India (SII), which produces a licensed version of the AstraZeneca drug. SII has more than tripled its capacity since April and can now produce 220 million vaccine doses a month.

Meanwhile, Indian envoy to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, has said that there is “very strong and deep appreciation” in the United States as India achieved the one billion COVID-19 vaccinations milestone.

Speaking at Public Affairs Forum of India’s 8th National Forum 2021 on Thursday, Sandhu said: “It is a very proud moment for us and I can tell you that there is very strong and deep appreciation in the US that we have crossed the one billion landmark and all through the vaccines manufactured in India.” India attained the milestone of administering 100 crore COVID-19 vaccines on Thursday morning. Several world leaders congratulated India on this achievement.

But, while appreciating the Central government for achieving the landmark of administering over 100 crore Covid-19 vaccine jabs, Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury on Friday raised concern over rising fuel prices, unemployment and hunger.

Speaking to reporters, Yechury said, “I congratulate the countrymen on this accomplishment. However, I believe that only 21 per cent of the population is administered with the second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. In today’s address to the nation, the Prime Minister did not speak on issues like rising fuel prices, unemployment and hunger in the country.” Yechury further said, “Vaccine century is an achievement in itself but one must know that there are only two countries in the world that have a population of more than 125 crores. The other country (hinting at China), has administered more shots of the second dose as compared to ours. Previously, the Prime Minister had given the assurance that by the end of the year, all the adults in the country will be vaccinated but this assurance seems far-fetched.”

No doubt, giving 1 billion jabs to people is a milestone. But India has a long way to go before it fully vaccinates its massive population of 1.34 billion people.

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