As of June 28, India has administered 32,36,63,297 COVID-19 vaccine doses. This means we have zoomed past the US in the number of total vaccine doses administered. Interestingly, vaccination in India began on January 16 this year while the US has been providing jabs from December 14 last year. This is no mean feat especially in the context of the recent devastating second wave in the country and its overwhelming effects on public health infrastructure. However, the percentage of people vaccinated against the total number of eligible population remains low.
Health experts have warned of a third wave in India. A few predict India’s third wave could start as early as 6-8 weeks from now while others say it is more likely in September-October. The timing and magnitude of the third wave will depend on virus mutation and transmission, human behaviour and level of vaccination. Irrespective of the timeline, the third wave and possibly a few more are imminent and everyone including government, citizens, civil society organisations and industries should be prepared for this.
We will need to combat outbreaks for foreseeable future all around the world and vaccination is the only weapon we have in this. With COVID-19 vaccines, even if the impact on infection and transmission varies by vaccine, location, and virus variant, vaccines save lives. Evidence suggests that those vaccinated have a low probability of hospitalisation even if someone has just received the first dose. Partial protection is always better than no protection. Indeed, it is the difference between life and death in many cases.
For India, the concerns are around low vaccination rates and the emergence of Delta sub-lineages. We also need to keep in consideration that we have not even started vaccination of the age group between 0-18 years. We are unlikely to reach herd immunity without faster pace of vaccination. It is critical that the pace is increased especially for those who can’t afford vaccinations at private institutions. Access to free vaccination by the government still remains a challenge for those in remote rural areas and urban slum communities. Lack of technology penetration, vaccine hesitancy and low level of awareness are challenges that need to be tackled.