India’s kicks off ‘vaccine festival’ as clamor against shortage grows louder

New Delhi, Apr 11 (EFE).- India Sunday began the so-called vaccine festival to speed up the inoculation drive amid a growing number of daily Covid-19 cases and vaccine shortage in some of its worst-hit states.

The need to accelerate India’s vaccination campaign, the largest in the world, was driven by an alarming surge in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the past days.

On Sunday, when the four-day “Tika Utsav”, the vaccine festival, kicked off, the federal health ministry said nearly 153,000 people tested positive for the virus in the past 24 hours.

It is the highest single-day figure since the pandemic began last year.

The ministry said 839 people lost their lives to the disease in the last 24 hours from Saturday morning, taking the overall Covid-19 toll to 169,275 deaths.

India has a total caseload of 13.35 million infections, the third-highest after the United States and Brazil.

The country of 1.35 billion people is in the tight grip of the second wave of the virus, spreading the disease at a much faster rate than the peak of the first wave last year.

The vaccine festival does not involve any extra efforts or more doses than planned earlier by the government.

But Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the brain behind the “Tika Utsav,” has urged those eligible to get inoculated.

Modi described the festival as the beginning of the “second big war against coronavirus” and emphasized the need for social and personal hygiene.

He insisted that the country needed to move towards zero vaccine wastage.

India plans to immunize those over 45 besides inoculating its frontline and health workers.

The target is to cover 300 million people by July.

But the drive that began in January has already hit problems and is fast running out of time.

The government Saturday claimed that 100 million shots were administered in less than three months of the campaign.

Stocks in several states, including those hit hard by the second wave of the outbreak, are running alarmingly low.

Some states have even had to shut down vaccination centers because these ran out of stocks even as India is one of the few nations in the world that is self-sufficient in developing vaccines.

The federal health ministry has categorically denied any vaccine shortage even as the regional governments in Maharashtra, Punjab, and Rajasthan have said they were fast running out of supplies.

“Punjab has only five days of supply left at current vaccination levels, between 85,000 and 90,000 people per day,” Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said in a statement.

“We are hopeful that the center will send out fresh supplies of vaccines soon,” he said.

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