India on Thursday marked a historic milestone in the global fight against COVID-19, having administered 1 billion vaccines. Data from the Health Ministry indicates that as of 10 am on October 21, a total of 1,00,00,15,714 jabs have been administered. According to updates shared by the government, this is the fastest vaccination drive ever conducted by the country,
As India crossed the massive milestone, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was seen visiting Delhi's RML Hospital. Countless political leaders and netizens have also taken to social media platforms to mark the occasion. "Congratulations India! This is the result of the able leadership of visionary Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi," tweeted Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya.
Earlier, he had said that announcements will be made on airplanes, ships, metros and at railway stations when India achieves the 100 crore target. Mandaviya said that Spicejet will wrap planes with posters of one billion vaccine with images of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and healthcare workers on the day the target of 100 crore doses is achieved. He had also recently launched 13 videos on COVID-19 warriors and a coffee table, published by the health ministry, to pay tributes to them.
Timeline of India's COVID-19 vaccination drive
On January 16 this year, India had begun one of the world's biggest vaccination drives, with healthcare workers and frontline workers getting inoculated in the first phase. Then followed the second phase from March 1, for people over 60 years of age and those aged 45 and above with specified co-morbid conditions. The country launched vaccination for all people aged more than 45 years from April 1. Finally, the government expanded its vaccination drive by allowing everyone above 18 to be vaccinated from May 1.
While two vaccines have been approved for use on minors - Covaxin for those above two years of age, and ZyCoV-D for all above 12 - these are yet to be made available to the public.
The challenges ahead
Even as India managed to successfully administer at least one COVID-19 dose to most of its adult population, vaccine hesitancy lingers in many areas. From Mumbai's local trains being available only to fully vaccinated individuals to rewards being given after a jab - local authorities have provided many incentives and relaxations to encourage inoculation.
Despite this, it must be noted that at present a majority of Indians are only partially vaccinated. As per data on the CoWIN dashboard on Thursday morning, only around 31% of all adults have received both doses of vaccine (India only has two dose vaccines being used at present). In contrast, around 75% of all adults have been administered the first dose.
The Central government on Tuesday asked all states and Union Territories (UTs) to focus on second dose of vaccination in the light of adequate availability of Covid vaccines. The Union Health Ministry said a sizeable number of beneficiaries who are eligible have not received their second vaccine dose. The states and UTs should focus on the second dose.