It Will Take India 2.4 Years to Vaccinate 75% of Its Population, New Analysis Shows
India has administered 79 million doses of Covid19 vaccines between January 16 and April 5 — covering almost 3% of the country’s population, a global vaccine distribution tracker reveals.
The government is vaccinating people at a rate of 2.6 million doses per day, according to the Bloomberg tracker. But only 0.8% of the country’s 1.3 billion-plus population has received both doses of the vaccine so far. At this rate, it will take India 2.4 years to vaccinate 75% of its population — roughly the amount required to achieve herd immunity against Covid19, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, American physician-scientist and immunologist.
Bloomberg’s analysis coincides with the second-wave surge in Covid19 cases in India. The daily case count crossed 1 lakh for the first time since the pandemic began; the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare last week asked states and union territories to vaccinate everyone above the age of 45 within two weeks in districts witnessing rapid transmission, as a measure to curb the uptick. States are imposing stricter restrictions on mobility, and reports of new variants and double mutations contribute to growing uncertainty.
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Against this backdrop, state governments and commentators are urging the central government to speed up its vaccination drive and lower the minimum age of eligibility further. Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray — who recently imposed a host of lockdown measures to break the chain of transmission — urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to lower the eligibility age for being vaccinated to 25. Maharashtra is among the worst-affected states by Covid19 in India, currently accounting for more than half of the total cases.
“… if a larger number of our young and working population is vaccinated, the intensity of the cases would be much lower than the treatment that they need today,” Thackeray wrote. Delhi’s Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal, also made a similar appeal yesterday.
However, the Union Health Secretary noted in a press briefing on Tuesday that the government will give vaccines to those who “need” it and not those who “want” it. As of now, anyone above age 45is eligible to get the Covid19 jabs.
With escalating numbers, India appears to have two options: vaccinate people faster while also breaking the chain of transmission through social distancing — both of which can and should go hand-in-hand. But given the predicted timeline for concluding inoculation for the masses, the focus remains on ramping up social distancing measures and adhering to Covid19 social guidelines.
“The situation is going from bad to worse. … the whole country is potentially at risk,” Dr. Vinod Paul, a member of NITI Aayog who is also leading the panel responsible for the government’s Covid19 response, cautioned last week. He added that “no state, no part of our country should be complacent. The trends show that the virus is still very active and can penetrate our defenses.”