Covid-19: At current rate, India may take 3 years to vaccinate 30 crore people
Even though India inoculated its first one million individuals faster than the US and UK, the country may take up to three years to vaccinate the prioritised 300 million population going by the current rate, experts have estimated.
India's current capacity is about vaccinating 300,000 people per day. Going by the first week's number, the current rate of vaccination is about 58% of capacity, which would improve in the coming days.
If the vaccination rate improves to an average of 200,000 per day, i.e., 67% or 2/3rd of capacity over the next couple of months, covering 30 million healthcare and frontline workers would take 5 months or till mid-June, said virologist Shahid Jameel, director of the Trivedi School of Biosciences at Ashoka University.
Vaccination for the 270 million higher age group would likely start while the second phase of 20 million frontline workers is still being vaccinated. This may happen by late April or early May. At the current capacity of 3 lakhs per day or 90 lakhs (9 million) per month, it would still take at least 27 months. Since everyone needs two doses 4 weeks apart, it would possibly take 36 months (or 3 years).
'The bottleneck is not vaccine availability, but our ability to get it into people. We will require much more capacity to get this done faster,' Jameel told DH.
So far more than 1.6 million persons (16,13,667) received the vaccine at 28613 sessions, which is 56% short of the government's plan of giving the vaccine to 100 persons at each session. On Sunday, only five states carried out the vaccination inoculating 31466 persons at 693 sessions - a shortfall of 45%.
The gap was there on each of the seven days between January 17 and January 23, ranging from 30-47%. India, however, took only 6 days to roll out 1 million vaccine doses. This count is higher for countries like the US and the UK. The UK took 18 days whereas the US took 10 days to reach the 1 million mark.
Sources said that some of the states like West Bengal asked the Centre to clarify if a person refused to take Bharat Biotech's Covaxin - a vaccine that lacks efficacy data at the moment - could he or she be given Serum Institute's Covishield. At the moment, there is no clarity in the central government's instructions submitted to the states.
Public health experts are of the opinion that India needs to accelerate the vaccination exercise to inoculate 3-4 million people daily if it has to inoculate 300 million by August. This seems to be an impossible task going by the current rates.
Asked whether 300 million can be vaccinated by October, senior scientist Satyajit Rath, formerly associated with the National Institute of Immunology, Delhi said, "By current speed, the obvious arithmetic is that it will take years to vaccinate the country.'
'However, I expect that the vaccination process will expand further and will become smoother and somewhat faster. Just how much faster is anybody's guess. I still doubt that an October deadline can be met, but I will be glad to be wrong."