Indian experts urge faster inoculations ahead of free COVID-19 shots

Shopkeepers are waiting to open their stores in a market area after authorities eased lockdown restrictions on June 7, 2021 in New Delhi, India, designed to slow the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). REUTERS / Adnan Abidi

Indian officials and health experts hailed a federal government plan to give free COVID-19 shots to all adults on Tuesday as a step in the right direction, but warned that vaccinations need to be sped up to prevent new flare-ups.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Monday the federal government would take over the Indian states’ vaccination program and offer free doses to everyone over the age of 18.

His announcement on national television followed weeks of criticism of the launch of a vaccine that has hit less than 5% of India’s estimated adult population of 950 million. This has left the country vulnerable to yet another wave of infections following an April-May spike that saw government data show 170,000 people killed.

“It took him 4 months, but after a lot of pressure he finally listened to us and did what we asked all along,” wrote Mamata Banerjee, Prime Minister of West Bengal, on Twitter.

India fires an average of 2.4 million shots a day. Health officials say this is nowhere near enough for a country as large as India.

“We need to vaccinate 7-8 million people a day to meet the goal of vaccinating all eligible people by the end of December,” said Giridhara Babu, a member of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the country’s premier health research agency, said Reuters.

Babu is part of the epidemiology and surveillance working group of the national task force.

Daily infections have decreased and officials want to shift the focus to mass vaccination. India reported 86,498 new cases overnight, the lowest number in over two months and a sharp drop from a high of around 400,000 a day in May. Continue reading

India got its population with AstraZeneca. vaccinated (AZN.L) Recordings from the Serum Institute of India and Covaxin from the Indian company Bharat Biotech. Russia’s Sputnik V is due to hit the market in mid-June.

One reason for the low coverage is the scarce supply. There are no supplies of AstraZeneca at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi, a hospital director said.

Authorities in Delhi have urged hospitals to stop the first dose of homemade Covaxin to people aged 18 to 44 and instead focus on the elderly until care improves, a city government spokesman said.

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