India has crossed the one billion COVID-19 vaccination threshold, and the nation is on course to vaccinate 944 million adults this year.
PM Modi, who visited the Ram Manohar Lohia hospital in Delhi to mark the milestone, congratulated the nation and called it "the triumph of Indian science, enterprise and collective spirit of 130 crore Indians". ‘‘Congrats India on crossing 100 crore vaccinations. Gratitude to our doctors, nurses and all those who worked to achieve this feat," he said in a tweet.
India is pursuing a double-dose vaccine regime against the dreaded Covid-19 virus, but less than 30% adult population has been administered both the doses. While India has performed exceptionally well in administering over 100 crore doses, it is going to get tougher from here on, vaccine expert Dr Gagandeep Kang told News18.com in an exclusive interview.
“When compared to the rest of the world, India is in a very good position,” said Dr Kang, professor with The Welcome Trust Research Laboratory, Christian Medical College (Vellore). “The first 10, 20 or 70% is easy but the last 10, 20% is harder to do because here you are talking about the population that is difficult to reach (or convince) because of one or the other reason or they are the one with highest level of vaccine hesitancy,” she said. According to Dr Kang, there are also many unanswered questions India needs to deliberate on before it starts vaccinating children below 12 years.
Also, despite the 100-crore feat, India maintains a stoic 'no' on Covid booster shots. More than 15 countries worldwide have begun issuing third doses to older citizens, including in Israel and in European Union nations such as France, Italy and Germany. ‘‘But as of now, we do not have a recommendation for a booster bump-up dose," Dr Paul told reporters during a recent health ministry briefing, adding however that the government would “continue to watch this space very carefully."
Incidentally, Covid-19 infections jumped to 18,454 in the last 24 hours ending at 8 am on Thursday, which showed a 26% hike over the previous day, while the active caseload slightly jumped to 1,73,831, which is 733 more than the previous day. Nonetheless, the daily infections are below 20,000 for the 13th day while the active cases at 0.52% of the total infections are the lowest since March 2020.
The countrywide Covid fatalities fell to 160 on Thursday, as against 197 a day earlier, with Kerala topping at 62 and Maharashtra 21. The recovery rate at 98.15% is the highest since March 2020. As against 34.13 million infections, the recoveries stood at 44.49 million. The daily positivity rate at 1.48% is less than 3% for the last 52 days, whereas the weekly positivity rate at 1.34% is less than 3% for the last 118 days.
From the Qutub Minar in Delhi to Golconda Fort in Hyderabad, a total of 100 heritage monuments were illuminated in the colours of the national flag to mark the vaccination milestone.
VK Paul, NITI Aayog member and chief of the government's vaccine panel, said it was remarkable that they had touched the one billion dose mark in just over nine months since the vaccination program started in India.
Stressing the need for consistency, he pointed out that even though the first dose has been given to over 75 percent of adults, 25 percent remain unvaccinated.
WHO's Regional Director, South-East Asia, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, said that this "extraordinary feat" was not possible in a short span without "strong political leadership, inter-sectoral convergence, dedicated efforts of the entire health & frontline workforce."
To celebrate the record, the government made announcements over loudspeakers on trains, planes, and ships.
The milestone comes months after a huge spike in cases in April and May, when more than 400,000 infections and 4,000 deaths were reported per day and the country's health infrastructure was overwhelmed.