© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People wearing face masks wait to receive a dose of COVISHIELD, a vaccine against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) made by the Serum Institute of India, at a vaccination center in New Delhi, India on 4 May 2021. REUTERS / Adnan Abidi / Ph file
By Prasanta Kumar Dutta
(Reuters) – India launched a serious vaccination campaign for its 1.38 billion people in mid-January.
Healthcare, front-line workers and the elderly were the first eligible, followed by people over 45 in April, then adults between 18 and 45 in May.
This latest expansion, covering around 43% of the population, turned out to be a critical point.
(Graphic: Young, Indian, unvaccinated – https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/INDIA-VACCINE/azgpoozqdpd/index.html)
Following an increase in COVID-19 infections across the country in April, Prime Minister Narendra Modi accelerated plans to expand the program and opened vaccination from May 1 for people aged 18 to 45 .
The decision led people in that age group, who represent 600 million of the population, to rush to register on the government’s CoWIN vaccination website. Critically, there has been no corresponding increase in vaccine supplies.
As of June 4, India had provided at least one dose to around 50 million people between the ages of 18 and 44, which is only 8% of that population group.
Adding to the difficulties, a privilege gap has emerged in the rollout of vaccination, with hospitals charging different prices for the same vaccine. Some hospitals in wealthy areas sold the Covishield shot, made in India, for 1,800 rupees ($ 25) a dose, nearly double the 950 rupees charged elsewhere.
In addition, Indians in towns received injections faster than those living in the countryside. This means that vaccines remain unavailable for a large part of the population who cannot afford them or who have little or no access to private hospitals.
IMPORTER OF VACCINES
India – the world’s largest producer of vaccines for polio, diphtheria and other diseases – has sold or donated more than 66 million COVID-19 vaccines to 95 countries until mid-April.
But as infections started to rise around mid-March in India, the clamor for home vaccines has also increased. India has now started importing vaccines and is also awaiting donations from the United States.
The government expects vaccine supplies to improve significantly from June. He expects to produce enough vaccines by December to immunize all of his estimated 950 million adults, although those between the ages of 18 and 45 are last on the priority list.
Several Indian states have started to gradually lift restrictions on travel and business, after a drop in cases in recent weeks. However, health experts have warned cases could rise again once most states reopen and called for accelerated vaccinations.
As of June 8, less than 4% of India’s adult population had received the required two doses of vaccine. Almost 14% received at least one dose and, among this group, less than a tenth of 18-45 year olds were vaccinated.
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