Sustaining the momentum of the focused push to vaccination needs to remain a high priority
There were two back-to-back positive developments in India last week: On Thursday, the country crossed a milestone of 50% first dose Covid-19 vaccine coverage of those above 18. It was followed by a single-day record of administering over one crore vaccine doses. This single-day tally was the highest since the launch of the inoculation drive on January 16. While the twin milestones are commendable, the challenge now is to consolidate the momentum and work towards achieving the target of vaccinating nearly 90 crore adult population by the end of the year. To meet this goal, India needs to consistently administer one crore doses daily. It is heartening to note the optimism exuded by the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation which hopes to vaccinate 1.25 crore in a single day soon. The first 10 crore doses in the country were administered in 85 days, the next 10 crore in 45 while the journey from 50 crore to 60 crore took 19 days. It is indeed a creditable progress, but it still may not be good enough as studies predict a third wave and a surge in cases in October. Sustaining the momentum of the focused push to the vaccination programme needs to remain a high priority. While steadfastly focusing on the coverage target, the authorities must also enforce covid-appropriate public behaviour including wearing masks, maintaining social distance and avoiding large gatherings. In terms of vaccination numbers, August has seen a big surge due to improvement in the vaccine supply position.
Over 62 crore doses of the vaccines have been administered across India, the second highest after China, but a staggering number of the eligible population has still not been covered. This poses a big challenge. India’s lag in the number of fully vaccinated can be partly explained by the decision to delay the second dose of Covishield, a vaccine that accounts for nine out of 10 shots. It is critical that the country starts bridging this gap. Of every 10 people who have received shots in India, only three have been fully vaccinated, too small a share for any country to return to normalcy. Official data shows that 99% of healthcare workers have received the first jab and 83% are fully vaccinated. Nearly 80% frontline workers have received both shots. Several aspects of the virus behaviour are still unknown. The recent spurt in breakthrough infections in different parts of the world suggests that even two doses of the present crop of vaccines may not provide the protection they were earlier believed to offer. Several countries are planning to administer booster shots next year to enhance immunity against the virus. India too needs to consider this route.