New Delhi: Mega celebrations are being planned for the completion of 100 crore vaccine doses, but India’s daily vaccinations numbers in October are the lowest since July. And this is despite a steady increase in vaccine supplies.
In the first 18 days of October, about 53.21 lakh vaccine doses were administered on an average. In September, the average number of vaccine doses administered daily was 78.69 lakh, in August it was 59.29 lakh and in July it was 43.41 lakh, show data with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
Officials in the health ministry say a combination of factors, including the fact that this is the festive season and the long dose gap for Covishield of 12-16 weeks, is slowing down vaccinations.
On Dusshera, 15 October, the total daily vaccination tally stood at just a little over 8 lakh doses. This is in contrast to a time when states repeatedly reported vaccine shortages and the Centre scrambled to get them.
The vaccine availability situation has eased significantly. In a statement on Monday morning, Press Information Bureau said: “More than 102 crore (1,02,05,09,915) vaccine doses have been provided to States/UTs so far through Govt of India (free of cost channel) and through direct state procurement category. More than 10.72 Cr (10,72,90,010) balance and unutilized COVID Vaccine doses are still available with the States/UTs to be administered.”
‘Festive season slowing down drive’
Officials say the festive season in various parts of the country is keeping people away from vaccination centres.
“Contrary to what people think, it is not as if staff at the vaccination centres have gone on leave, and that is why vaccinations are not happening,” said a senior official in the Ministry of Health.
The official added that people do not want to queue up during the festival as there are “concerns about post-vaccination reactions”. “Even mild fever and body ache, which is very common, would take away two days of the festival,” the official said.
The other factor that is slowing the drive down is the dose gap for Covishield.
“You have to understand that there is a certain time period that has to elapse before a person can get the second shot. And because the bulk of the vaccines given are Covishield, this is a very important factor and will become more so in the coming days.”
Plans for 100 crore vaccine doses
The government, however, is preparing to celebrate the administration of 100 crore vaccine doses as a vaccination “landmark”.
Both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting are working for this. Announcements at various transport junctions, hoardings thanking the prime minister and possibly, even an address from the PM “congratulating the country” are part of the plan.
On Monday, Union Health Minister, Mansukh Mandaviya tweeted: “98 crores done India is quickly making its way to #COVID19 vaccine century! Just two more steps to go”.
(Edited by Paramita Ghosh)