The government has to vaccinate 8.8 million people a day, every day, till the end of the year to ensure every adult in the country receives two jabs. The authorities have increased the country’s capacity to produce additional doses of vaccines and are readying an army of health workers to get there.
India created a new world record on June 21, the first day of the free universal vaccination drive, with 8.5 million shots being dispensed that day. The very next day, however, the number of jabs dipped to 5.3 million.
It has been calculated that India will have to vaccinate about 8.8 million people a day – everyday – till the end of year to reach its target of vaccinating its entire adult population of 950 million with two doses each.
To reach this very stiff target, India is training an army of emergency health workers. On June 18, the Prime Minister launched the Customized Crash Course programme for Covid 19 Frontline workers’. Under this initiative, 100,000 youth will be trained over the next 2-3 months. Six customised courses have been launched from 111 centres in 26 states.
The other variable in the equation is vaccine production capacity. India will need close to two billion doses to vaccinate its entire adult population.
The authorities are confident that neither of these present an insurmountable problem. The Economic Times quoted N.K. Arora, Head of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation in India (NTAGI) to say as many as 200-220 million doses of the vaccine will become available from next month.
India’s two main vaccine producers – Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine maker, which makes produces the Covishield vaccine under license from Astra Zeneca, and Bharat Biotech (BB), which makes the homegrown Covaxin, have been ramping up production over the last couple of months.
According to government sources, SII will provide 120 million doses in July and BB will supply 100 million.
"Right now, Bharat Biotech is producing 3-4 crore (30-40 million) doses of Covaxin. They have been ramping up their production and by this month we expect 10 crore (100 million) doses of Covaxin only," Arora told The Economic Times.
The report added that part of this incremental production from BB will come from Indian Immunologicals, a public sector unit that has tied up with the former for this purpose.
The government is confident that it has created sufficient capacity, both in terms of production capacity as well in terms of health workers to vaccinate people, to be able to inoculate as many as 12.5 million people a day.
“What happened on June 21, the first day of the universal vaccination drive, was not sudden but a result of coordinated planning. Between June 1-21, the average daily vaccination was 34,62,841, so a jump to 88 lakh (8.8 million) when vaccines and capacity are available is possible," said health secretary Rajesh Bhushan.
Meanwhile, the government has asserted that its vaccination platform CoWin can bear the load even if as many as 10-20 million people turn up every day to get their jabs.
Speaking to the media, R.S. Sharma, Chief Executive of the National Health Authority and Chairman of the Empowered Group for Covid-19 Vaccine Administration, said: “We have certainly created a platform, which is scalable; it did not have a single glitch despite such large numbers, and I don't think we will have any glitch if the numbers go up more.”