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India’s Biggest Vaccination Drive – Will All Adults in India Be Vaccinated by 2021?

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    Will All Adults in India Be Vaccinated by 2021?

    Hey Sarla, have you taken the vaccination? Is it your first dose? Was it Covaxin, Sputnik-V or Covishield?

    To Sarla aunties reading this article in utter confusion and disbelief and wondering about their unbooked vaccine slots, delve into this article to know about India’s vaccination drive.

    India’s Vaccination Drive

    The Center stated on July 2 that since June 21, India has been vaccinating an average of 50 lakh people per day, a number equivalent to Norway’s whole population. This approach, it claimed, is more like a marathon than a 100-meter dash.

    Domestic vaccine makers have been given the option of providing vaccines immediately to private hospitals to incentivize vaccination manufacturing and encourage innovative vaccines. This would be limited to a quarter of their monthly output.

    India has initiated the latest phase of its COVID-19 immunization program, which aims to provide free vaccinations at government hospitals to all 940 million people in the country in the 18–44 age bracket. Although India’s largest vaccine producer – SII (Serum Institute of India) – has been failing to increase supply, the government promised to vaccinate the entire adult population by the end of 2021. It intends to increase vaccine manufacturing, vowing to manufacture at least 2 billion doses between August and December of this year.

    A clinical trial covering a population of 1.3 billion people is probably going to be a fearsome task, although India had successfully undertaken countrywide immunization campaigns in the past. The necessity for a speedier implementation now, in the middle of a blazing, deadly second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, has its own set of largely unforeseen obstacles.

    The Unending Cycle of Slot Booking

    Madhav is a software engineer in a reputed organization and has availed his paid leave on a bright Friday morning. He had planned to binge-watch Netflix and chill in his room. However, he was caught up with the need of the hour: book vaccination slots for his family. To his astonishment, it took him six hours to find slots for everyone. After booking, he was totally tired and wished he had been working at the office instead. Well, they say there’s a first time for everything!

    What are the vaccines already circulating within India?

    The vaccines currently available locally are Covaxin and Covishield. Covaxin is produced in-house within India by Bharat Biotech, while Covishield is manufactured by SII with a license from AstraZeneca.

    In May, the government announced that it had ordered 356 million doses of Covaxin and Covishield to be ready for use until July, but not all doses have been delivered.

    Sputnik V – the COVID-19 vaccine from Gamaleya Institute – licensed for use back in April, is available now, with Russia supplying three million doses.

    How quickly are individuals being vaccinated?

    India began its vaccination campaign in mid-January and has since administered approximately 210 million vaccine doses.

    Daily immunizations peaked at 3.6 million in early April, then dropped before ramping up again in the last week. It could take up to 1.6 years to vaccinate the adult population at the current rate.

    However, because of a supply shortage, some states, notably Delhi and Maharashtra, have announced that vaccinations for people aged 18 to 44 will be suspended.

    Production-supply misalignment

    As the number of infections and deaths increased, the vaccination drive became increasingly chaotic: the initially lukewarm reception to the vaccine gave way to scenes of enormous crowds at vaccination centers, with many people returning home without obtaining a shot due to shortages. The blame game that proceeded was between the Center and the states on one hand, and the vaccine makers on the other. To grasp India’s vaccination predicament, analysts have tried to put together their arguments concerning national procurement, availability, and production capacity. However, until recently, data was not readily available.

    Several governments have thus launched global tenders while also suspending vaccination efforts for residents aged 18 to 44 due to a scarcity of supply, but the response has been unsettling.

    What is the maximum amount of vaccines India could produce?

    The government has now resolved to produce a minimum of 2 billion doses by December to tackle this problem of inadequate distribution of vaccination. This decision has been taken to combat the rising number of adults who are yet to be vaccinated, as according to the 2011 census figures, more than 900 million adults in India are eligible for vaccination now.

    In the initial days of manufacturing vaccinations, the government had aimed to manufacture eight kinds of vaccines to combat the pandemic. However, only three have been clinically tested and licensed to be rolled out in the country. Another two are going through the early phases of the clinical trials, and the remaining three are in the last phase of the trials.

    Bharat Biotech is also developing two vaccines, with 550 million Covaxin doses and 100 million doses of an intranasal vaccine in the early phases of the trials.

    Moving forward

    Amid a vaccine scarcity in the country, NEGVAC (National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19) declared that between August and December 2021, it expects to produce 2.16 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses, all from domestic sources, including local Sputnik V production and additional vaccines in development. The mere chance of a second wave was not taken seriously enough earlier, and all reactions toward the pandemic, especially vaccination, suffered as a result.

    It is high time that we stop blaming or depending solely on the government and the state authorities, and take necessary precautions to combat the second wave and lessen its after-effects. Ketto has been known for being a highly preferred online crowdfunding platform for highlighting individual and community causes that are in dire need of monetary support in these stressful times. This is where individuals and organizations can post verified pleas for financial help, and gather funds to sustain their livelihood.

    We pledge everyone’s safety through our awareness campaign, bridging the gap between people from different sections. We urge you to take necessary precautions to ensure your safety and of your loved ones too. Stay safe, and don’t forget to wear your masks and get the vaccination!

    Sushant Peshkar
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