India's Covid Vaccination Drive Picks Up Pace In June, More Than 11.2 Crore Doses Given
A health workers administers a dose of the Covishield vaccine at a vaccination center set up at Navyug School in New Delhi. (Photographer: Sumit Dayal/Bloomberg)

India's Covid Vaccination Drive Picks Up Pace In June, More Than 11.2 Crore Doses Given

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India's vaccination drive against Covid-19 picked up pace in June with the number of doses administered more than doubling over a dismal May.

The country administered 11.27 crore doses in June, compared with a 5.53 crore in May, according to data from the government's CoWin dashboard. The daily average vaccinations in June rose to 37.56 lakh from 17.8 lakh in the month before.

That would mark the best month for India's inoculation programme so far, better even than April's 25.8 lakh daily shots.

The month was not without its drama. On June 7, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration reversed its earlier policy that had asked states to independently buy vaccine doses for the 18-44 age group. Now the central government will procure 75% of domestic production to supply free vaccines across the country. The remaining 25% is available via private hospitals, at a fee.

This new policy came into effect on June 21 and was marked by a surge in the daily rate, to 90 lakh doses, which as some media reports pointed out, may have been due to an orchestrated effort by some BJP-governed states.

Expectedly, that pace could not be maintained.

In June, eight of the most populous states—that house more than half of India's population— ramped up their vaccination drives.

Uttar Pradesh saw the biggest uptick with its daily average vaccination numbers more than doubling to 4.14 lakh. Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu also saw significant improvement.

Long Road Ahead...

Despite the sharp uptick in June, India continues to lag other major economies for per capita vaccine rates and fully vaccinated population.

Going by absolute numbers, India has administered the second-highest number of doses in the world—trailing only China. But that's just part of the story. India has fully vaccinated just over 4.2% of its population with two doses.

Research has shown that two doses of the vaccine greatly reduce the chances of severe disease, hospitalisation and deaths due to Covid-19. And evidence of protection offered by vaccines against newer coronavirus variants like the Delta Plus is fairly limited right now.

That becomes particularly relevant in a densely population country like India, which is just out of a deadly second wave of the pandemic. The government is also anticipating a third wave of the virus in the next 4-6 weeks.

Vaccine coverage in India also remains low. Less than 0.4 vaccine shots are administered daily per 100 people in the country. That number is almost five times smaller than that of China and lower than the world average, too.

That said, India is likely to sustain its pace of vaccinations in July too based on the estimated supply. In an affidavit to the Supreme Court, the Modi government has said 12 crore doses will be allocated to states in July.

Supply of vaccines is also likely to improve from August, with added capacities of Bharat Biotech Ltd. and Serum Institute of India coming into play. The government expects 135 crore doses to be supplied between August and December. However, that estimate relies partly on two vaccine candidates that are still in clinical trial phase.

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