Experts say this rate is unsustainable one day after India received a record 8.6 million doses of COVID vaccine.
Health experts say that India’s vaccination in the next few weeks may not reach the alarming rate set on the first day of the federal campaign, unless it makes progress in the vast hinterland and resolves vaccine shortages.
The 8.6 million doses of vaccine injected on Monday represented a record double increase as India began to vaccinate all adults free of charge, reversing the policy of individual states and hospitals to purchase vaccines for people between 18 and 44 years old.
“This is clearly unsustainable,” Chandrakant Lahariya, an expert on public policy and health systems, told Reuters.
“Based on the current estimated vaccine supply in the coming months, the highest achievable vaccine rate per day is between 4 million and 5 million per day.”
Although India is the world’s largest vaccine producer, vaccination in the world’s second most populous country covers only 5.5% of all 950 million eligible people.
The devastating second wave of infections in April and May overwhelmed medical staff and facilities, killing hundreds of thousands of people. Images of burning pyre in parking lots and open spaces have raised questions about the chaotic vaccine launch.
Since May, India has distributed an average of less than 3 million doses per day, which is far below the 10 million doses stated by health officials. This is essential to protect the millions of people who are vulnerable to the new surge.
Experts say that this driving force is particularly stagnant in rural areas, where there are two-thirds of the 1.4 billion people, and the healthcare system is often overwhelmed.
Rajib Dasgupta, an epidemiologist in Delhi, said that maintaining the pace of vaccination efforts will be particularly challenging when vaccinating young people in these “underserved” areas.
The widespread shortage of vaccines since May has exacerbated the gap between urban and rural areas, as many young people in cities turn to private hospitals to protect themselves from the virus and pay between US$9 and US$24 per dose.
Bhramar Mukherjee, professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan, said that unless comprehensive data on factors such as vaccination are available, this regional gap in healthcare will increase.
The authorities in New Delhi stated that more than 8 million residents have not yet received the first dose of vaccine, adding that at the current rate, it will take more than a year for all adults in the capital to be vaccinated.
Although the number of new infections in the country has fallen to the lowest level in more than three months, experts have expressed concern about the ability of the variant that caused India to infect and spread globally, and urged to speed up vaccination.
In the past 24 hours, India has reported 42,640 new infections — the lowest number since March 23 — and 1,167 deaths. According to the Ministry of Health data, the total number of infections in the country is currently 29.98 million and the death toll is 389,302.