India took just six days to inoculate more than one million people with their first dose against Covid-19 in what it calls the world’s largest immunisation drive – progress that has been hailed as significantly faster than many developed nations.
The latest Indian health ministry figures announced on Sunday showed that the number of beneficiaries who have received one dose of a coronavirus vaccine was reaching close to 1.6 million in eight days.
“As on 24 January, till 8 am, 1,582,201 beneficiaries have received Covid-19 vaccination. In a span of 24 hours, close to 200,000 (191,609) people were vaccinated across 3,512 sessions. A total of 27,920 sessions have been conducted so far,” the ministry said in a statement.
“India took only 6 days to roll out one million vaccine doses. This count is higher than countries like the US and the UK,” the ministry highlighted.
“In a testament to the successful test-track-treat-technology strategy, India continues on its steady trajectory of reporting a sustained downfall in the daily new cases and consequential decline in the active cases,” the statement read.
Nearly 16 lakh (15,82,201) beneficiaries have received the COVID19 vaccination so far. India took only 6 days to roll out 1 million vaccine doses: Ministry of Health and Family Welfare pic.twitter.com/GdoS6we4sV
— ANI (@ANI) January 24, 2021
India began its vaccination drive on 16 January, targeting 300 million health and frontline workers to begin with. In the next phase, the country is supposed to inoculate 270 million elderly and vulnerable people.
Despite reaching the target of a million in less than a week, the country is bracing for the challenge of providing jabs in difficult-to-reach areas before much larger phases are launched.
"The problem will start from the third phase when the public will start coming," Madhusudan Mishra, district collector in the remote Koraput, Odisha, told Reuters. "That will be a real challenge."
Two vaccine candidates have received emergency approvals in the country, including the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which is being manufactured locally under the brand name “Covishield” by the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine producer.
Another vaccine, homegrown “Covaxin” developed by Bharat Biotech, has had a more troubled rollout due to concerns from doctors about a lack of published trial data, and accusations that its approval was rushed.
The controversy has added to scepticism about the safety and efficacy of Covid-19 shots in India, though there is also no hard evidence of any serious adverse effects.
"I was frightened because of my son and daughters. If something happens to me, what will they do?" Reena Jani, a health worker from Pendajam, Odisha, told Reuters after receiving a jab.
Recipients are not given an option to choose which vaccine they receive and both are being distributed nationwide, though there are many more doses of “Covishield” in supply. The country is expected to approve more vaccine candidates soon in order to meet its target of quickly immunising the world’s second-largest population.
India produced 60 per cent of the world’s vaccines prior to the pandemic, and it has already begun taking advantage of this established capacity by exporting jabs to its neighbours – for free – as well as beginning commercial exports to trade partners.
Meanwhile, the country's total number of cases stands at 10.7 million, out of which 10.3 million have recovered. The active cases in the country today stand at 184,408, the healthy ministry says. India has witnessed at least 153,000 deaths from the pandemic.