India on Thursday reached the milestone of one billion Covid vaccines in a little over nine months, commemorating the occasion by unfurling the national flag at the Red Fort and lighting up around 100 heritage monuments in the country in saffron, white, and green.
India has administered the second-highest number of doses in the world, next only to China, which is said to have given over 2.2 billion doses to its citizens.
“Today — October 21 — has been registered in history. The country has the protective shield of 100 crore doses to protect us from a once in a century pandemic,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet.
Nearly 31 per cent of the adult population is now reportedly fully vaccinated while 75 per cent has received their first dose.
Tweeting with the hashtag vaccine century, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said: “Congratulations India! We have achieved a landmark milestone of 100 Crore COVID-19 vaccination doses. Salute to our COVID Warriors, our Healthcare and Frontline Workers who have worked day and night to help us achieve it.”
The average daily vaccination doses delivered, on a seven-day moving average basis, have slowed from 8.4 million daily at the end of August to around 5 million. The challenge is to ensure everyone takes his or her second dose in time.
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said: “Completion of second dose for those people whose second dose is due is the next challenge.”
Challenges in vaccine supply seem to have eased. Adar Poonawalla, chief executive officer of Serum Institute of India, which provided more than 90 per cent of the overall doses (see chart 1) in the country, said the country had three to four weeks’ buffer stock.
“The Indian vaccine manufacturers together are making slightly more than the current demand. The Indian vaccine manufacturing capacity today is more than what we are consuming,” he added.
Airline IndiGo has been the largest transporter of Covid vaccines in the country, transporting 1,727 tonnes on 4,505 flights. That accounts for almost 68 per cent of the 1 billion vaccine doses administered so far.
Second-dose vaccinations are playing a more important role, accounting for 29.3 per cent of the total as India hit 1 billion. This is against 21.9 per cent of the total when India hit the 500-million mark in August.
A large gap between two doses can play a role in increasing the pace.
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