India’s vaccination drive slows down due to lack of doses

By Mikaela Viqueira

New Delhi, May 10 (EFE).- India’s fight against the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has suffered another drawback as the vaccination rate has dropped, even as the country witnessed a slight drop in fresh cases and deaths on Monday.

After four days when the daily caseload stayed above the 400,000 mark, India registered 366,161 cases within the last 24 hours, taking the total number of cases to around 22.6 million, according to the health ministry.

The number of deaths in the same period stood at 3,754, after two consecutive days of the death toll crossing 4,000, taking the total number of Covid fatalities to 246,116 as India continued to be the global epicenter of the epidemic.

However, the number of daily tests also dropped to 1.4 million on Monday, after oscillating between 1.5-1.9 million over the last week.

Considering the vaccination drive as the only way of effectively controlling the pandemic, the Indian government had announced plans to vaccinate the entire adult population from May 1 onwards.

However, only around 689,000 vaccine doses were administered on Monday, a figure much below the daily average of 1-1.5 million doses witnessed last month.

A total of 170 million doses have been administered as part of the campaign since January, and the ambitious target of vaccinating 300 million Indians by July seems out of reach, as only 35 million people have received both the necessary doses.

A number of Indian states have warned that the lack of vaccines is affecting the rate of inoculation.

The Indian government acquires 50 percent of the required doses produced by AstraZeneca and Serum Institute of India (Covishield), and Bharat Biotech (Covaxin) – the two vaccines currently being used in the country – to distribute among the states, while the other half is sold directly to hospitals and private entities.

However, the manufacturers have been unable to ramp up production to meet the double demand.

Adar Poonawalla, the CEO of SII – the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world – has lleged that he faced immense pressure, including threats, over the lack of doses, forcing him to seek the help of security guards.

In a statement last week, Poonawalla said it was impossible to increase production suddenly and producing sufficient doses for such a huge population was not an easy task.

The devastating impact of the pandemic in India has led to over 40 countries rushing in help such as oxygen plants, concentrators, cylinders, ventilators and other equipment.

Prestigious medical journal The Lancet said in an article last week that the crisis could have been avoided if Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had assessed the risks of allowing “superspreader events” such as religious festivals and political rallies.

Judging by the current situation, the United States-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has warned that India could witness one million Covid deaths by August.

It said that in that case, the Modi government would be responsible for presiding over a “self-inflicted” national catastrophe. EFE


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