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India administered a record 22 million coronavirus vaccines on Friday, surpassing its earlier record of 13.3 million doses in a single day. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party claimed the feat was a birthday present for prime minister Narendra Modi.
By 1.30 pm, more than 10 million people had received a vaccine shot. “I believe that today we will all make a new record of vaccination and give it as a gift to the prime minister,” federal health minister Mansukh Mandaviya said, claiming that this was “the fastest so far”.
This is the fourth time in less than a month that India has administered more than 10 million vaccines in a day.
By 7 pm, 22.1 million had received a jab. According to local media reports, the health ministry is expecting to cross the 25 million-mark on Friday.
The vaccination campaign is one of many events in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s three-week outreach campaign. It will end on 7 October, the day Mr Modi was first sworn-in as the chief minister of the northwestern state of Gujarat 20 years ago.
Governments in BJP-ruled states have also pledged to contribute to the target with the northeastern state of Assam government declaring that it will vaccinate at least 800,000 people on Friday alone. Madhya Pradesh set itself a target of 3.2 million, while Mr Modi’s home state Gujarat planned to administer 3.5 million doses on the birthday of its three-time chief minister.
But opposition parties as well as social media users criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party for politicising the vaccine drive.
“The mass vaccination programme on PM Modi’s birthday is nothing but headline management,” Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate said.
In the northern state of Bihar, main opposition party Rashtriya Janata Dal accused BJP’s ally and ruling Janata Dal United of deliberately slowing down the pace of vaccination in the past few days to make the 17 September drive a massive success, reported India Today.
The state government had set itself a target of 3 million vaccinations for the day, said Rashtriya Janata Dal spokesperson Mrityunjay Tiwari.
“In the last few days, the state government has deliberately slowed the pace of vaccination in the state so that a record number of people get vaccinated on September 17. We fail to understand why the state government is playing with the lives of people,” Mr Tiwari said.
India, which aims to inoculate all of its eligible population by the end of the year, has so far inoculated 787 million people. However, this is only 20 per cent of the eligible adult population.
India has so far recorded more than 33 million coronavirus cases and 444,248 deaths, and is second in terms of infections and deaths only to the US.