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COVID-19 | Record vaccination a 'test case' for govt to reach milestone of one crore doses a day

While the Centre is confident of hitting one crore vaccinations a day, officials tell Moneycontrol that supply side concerns remain.

June 24, 2021 / 11:13 AM IST
COVID-19 vaccination in a village (Representative image: AP)

COVID-19 vaccination in a village (Representative image: AP)

The record 88 lakh COVID-19 vaccine doses administered on June 21 has served as a test case, a ‘proof of concept’ so to speak, for an even bigger target for the central government. That of one crore doses a day.

This is not just a theoretical target for the Centre, with two senior officials who are part of the vaccination strategy telling Moneycontrol that authorities are working towards that number, and hope to reach the milestone by late July.

However, the officials also admit that challenges on the supply side remain, but are expected to get better over the coming weeks.

“If the supply steadies, then we can do it by late July. The logistical test of delivering one crore vaccinations, the proof of concept, has happened on June 21. Administratively speaking, we have shown it can be done, supply permitting,” said one of the officials cited above.

The government has publicly laid out two targets for itself: Of vaccinating the entire adult population by December-end, and of administering one crore doses a day by a timeframe of late-July to early August. It is, however, unlikely that the one crore target will be maintained on a daily basis even after reaching that mark.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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A day after the record high, on June 22, some 53 lakh doses were administered as of 10 pm. And on June 23, as of 7 pm, 61 lakh beneficiaries were vaccinated. This shows that even keeping up the record pace will be difficult on a regular basis. The record number was achieved after it was reported that some states had reduced vaccinations and stocked up in the preceding days in order to administer more doses on June 21.

Focus on Supply Side

The second official cited above said that based on discussions with vaccine-makers, there is confidence within the government that the supply situation would see a definite improvement from next month onwards.

As per media reports, the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation chairperson Dr NK Arora has stated that there will be enough supply in June to administer around 22 crore doses in the coming month.

“To be able to sustain 90 lakh to one crore doses a day, you also need to build stocks up to a level, where that quantity can flow steadily on a daily basis. Maybe you will need 5-7 days’ stock at any given time,” said the first official quoted above.

“You cannot do it hand to mouth, that is you cannot manufacture today and vaccinate tomorrow, you need a steady supply chain which is large enough to ensure that can happen in a continuous way,” the person said.

How much would the Centre need?

While the Centre wants to inoculate the entire adult population by December end, independent analysts disagree with that assessment.

For example, Nomura’s India and Asia (ex-Japan) Chief Economist Sonal Varma forecasts that 50 percent of India’s population will be vaccinated by the end of the year. She added that the pace of vaccination has to pick up, especially with fears of a third wave of COVID-19 cases.

As per the 2011 census, India’s total population is 121 crore, out of which around 94 crore are adults. As per the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, some 5.3 crore people have been fully vaccinated till June 23, while 24 crore people have received at least the first dose.

In absolute simple terms, some 160 crore doses would be required to vaccinate the entire adult population, going by the 2011 census.
Arup Roychoudhury
first published: Jun 23, 2021 07:51 pm

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