India crossed the 100-crore vaccine dose mark on October 21, a milestone in its fight against coronavirus, overcoming logistic challenges and hesitancy as healthcare workers climbed mountains, crossed rivers and walked deserts to jab adult Indians against the dreaded virus.
It took India nine months to administer 100 crore jabs, with 74 percent of the adult population getting the first dose. More than 31 percent are fully vaccinated
One billion doses is an achievement for the country that was brought to its knees by a devastating second wave in April-May that saw infections and daily deaths zoom to record highs.
100 Crore Vaccination LIVE Updates
The rough road
The drive, launched in mid-January, too, wobbled midway as India, which was sending out vaccines to other countries, ran short of supplies but it managed to ramp up production to accelerate the pace of vaccination to beat back the virus that has been mutating after it was first reported in China in late 2019.
Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Bharati Pravin Pawar said on October 20 that the government had set a target of vaccinating the country's entire adult population by the end of the year.
While virtually addressing the FICCI's Healthcare Excellence Awards ceremony, Pawar said that under the 'Make in India' initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India was one of the leading countries in the global medical devices market in the world.
Detailing the success amid challenges posed by COVID-19, the Union minister said, "More than 99 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the country and the government has set a target of vaccinating the country's entire adult population by end of the year."
Congratulating the milestone, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: "India scripts history. We are witnessing 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." (sic)
Further, to mark the 100-crore COVID-19 vaccine doses, the largest khadi tricolour in the country, weighing around 1,400 kg, will be displayed at the Red Fort on October 21, official sources said.
The same 225 feet by 150 feet handwoven tricolour, the largest in the country, was unfurled on October 2 in Leh to mark Mahatma Gandhi's 152nd birth anniversary and the 75th year of Independence.
"Congratulations to the people and healthcare workers of India. It's remarkable to reach the 1-billion dose mark for any nation, an achievement in just over nine months since the vaccination program started in India," said Dr VK Paul, Member-Health, NITI Aayog.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said the vaccination drive was based on six principles--to include everyone above 18 years and give free vaccination at government health centres, the government providing financial and technological support to indigenous vaccines, pursuing a layered approach of prioritising certain populations, developing a digital interface to coordinate work, sharing learnings and resources with the global community, and by consulting and collaborating with stakeholders.
To reach remote areas like the Karang Island in Loktak lake in Manipur, the government arranged for drones. Senior government scientist Dr Samiran Panda told BBC that in states such as Manipur and Nagaland ferries were being used to reach distant corners.
Difficult early days
At the peak of the second wave, the Indian government had faced criticism for delaying the procurement of vaccines.
In April, former prime minister Manmohan Singh sent a five-point letter to Modi, asking the government to finance and support the private sector, to ramp up production, to widen the eligible categories and allow vaccines cleared by credible international agencies such as European Medical Agency or the USFDA to be imported without domestic bridge trials.
From May 1, the government opened vaccination for those above 18. In June, the Drug Controller General of India (DGCI) announced that vaccines from certain countries and those under WHO’s Emergency Use Listing (EUL) would not need bridging trials.
As anticipation built up, Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker delivered a sombre note. It said there was a “yawning gap” between those who received the first dose and those who got both the doses.
“While it is likely to hit the billion-doses mark this week, the country has only given two shots to nearly 21 percent of its population of about 1.4 billion,” said a Bloomberg report.
According to experts, at least 60 percent of the population will need to receive both doses to stop the third wave.