As per the data compiled by Sunday Bloomberg and Johns Hopkins University, the vaccine drive in India saw an upward trend, with a four-fold increase, after it opened up for more people, supported by a key endorsement from PM’s own inoculation.
The data shows almost 21 million shots have been administered in India so far, up from 5.4 million a month ago. The number of doses per 100 people has also climbed to 1.56 from 0.41. A record 1.6 million Indians received a COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday.
Expanding the Roll Out
After having a lukewarm start to its vaccination drive, India decided to expand the priority list for the vaccine. It was declared that from 1 March onwards, private hospitals will also be allowed to vaccinate citizens over 60 years of age, and those over 45 with co-morbidities.
Eligible citizens can get their vaccine shots either from state-run health centres or from private hospitals at a cost of Rs 250. This heralded a ‘second phase’ of India’s COVID-19 vaccination drive.
The registration for Phase 2 began on the morning of 1 March. Registration and the booking for appointment for the vaccination can be done through the Co-WIN portal (cowin.gov.in) and the Aarogya Setu app. “There is NO #CoWIN App for beneficiary registration. The App on Play Store is for administrators only,” the Health Ministry clarified.
PM Modi's Jab Endorsed Vaccination Drive
The Bloomberg-Johns Hopkins data suggests that the vaccination drive saw an upward movement after Prime Minister Narendra Modi got his vaccine jab on 1 March. Earlier, there was scepticism towards vaccination due to the controversial approval of India’s own Bharat Biotech’s vaccine before the completion of its clinical trials.
Along with AstraZeneca Plc’s shot, India has also authorised the use of Covaxin – developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech International Ltd. – which initially caused hesitancy among medical and frontline workers. It was approved in early January before it had concluded final-stage human testing.
However, Bharat Biotech announced earlier this month that the vaccine showed a strong efficacy of 81 percent in those without prior infection after a second dose. Modi was also injected with the indigenously developed Covaxin – a move that may have helped shore up confidence.
India will need all these tailwinds to meet its target of inoculating about a quarter of its population by August. Maintaining the momentum in vaccination is not always easy, as Hong Kong’s experience shows. Also, as demand rises, supply shortages may arise in India unless bottlenecks are eased quickly.
Need to Expand Further
Home to the world’s the second-worst COVID outbreak, India will also need to open its vaccination programme more widely if it wants to curb further waves. This may mean allowing younger Indians to be inoculated and giving hospitals permission to directly purchase vaccines from the manufacturers instead of queuing up for state-procured supplies.
A wider vaccination programme is also key to sustaining the nascent economic recovery and retail boom across India, as people flock to shops and restaurants.
“Growth over the next few months could be driven by pent-up services demand, particularly with the vaccine roll out progressing,” HSBC Holdings Plc researchers, including Chief India Economist Pranjul Bhandari, wrote in a report on Friday. “Having said that, risks cannot be ignored,” including “the sudden surge in new pandemic cases in a few states.”
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