INDIA has administered one billion doses of Covid-19 vaccine, officials said Oct. 21 (PH time), passing a milestone for the South Asian country where the delta variant fueled its first crushing surge earlier this year.
About 75 percent of India’s total eligible adult population have received at least one dose, while around 30 percent are fully immunized. The country of nearly 1.4 billion people is the second to exceed a billion cumulative doses after the most populous country China did so in June.
Coronavirus cases have fallen sharply in India since the devastating months at the start of the year when the highly transmissible delta variant, first detected in the country a year ago, was infecting hundreds of thousands daily, sending Covid-19 patients into overwhelmed hospitals and filling cremation grounds.
Officials have bolstered the vaccination campaign in recent months, which experts say have helped control the outbreak since. The country began its drive in January.
Still, there remains a worrying gap between those who have received one shot and those fully immunized. Ramping up the second dose is “an important priority,” V K Paul, the head of the country’s Covid-19 taskforce, said at a briefing last week.
“We would like to see this number go up. Complete coverage is absolutely critical,” Paul said.
India had earlier said it aimed to vaccinate all eligible adults by the end of the year, but experts say the current pace of the vaccination drive will need to increase to meet this goal.
India, an important supplier of vaccines globally, halted exports in April as cases at home surged and only resumed exports earlier this month. The government is now optimistic that the country’s vaccine supply, which has seen a rise, will be enough to cover its international and domestic commitments.
In recent months, life in India has swung back to normal. Markets are buzzing with activity, tourists can enter the country after a 19-month hiatus and the country is gearing up to celebrate Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.
But there are fears this could be a lull before the storm. Even though India may have borne the brunt of the delta variant already, things could escalate quickly if a new variant emerges—either from within the country or outside.
“If the virus becomes different or mutates, it changes the dynamics. This could change everything,” said Paul.(AP)