April , 2021
How is India poised to vaccinate its own population?
12:56 pm

Kuntala Sarkar


Since last few months India has witnessed the second wave of the Coronavirus contamination and the month April is truly crucial concerning the matter. Assembly elections in few states have pushed the figures higher due to political mass gatherings. So, the need to accelerate the pace of vaccination in the country is essential now. Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal are some of the worst impacted states due to Covid-19. The union government and the state governments are working hand in hand to combat the second wave but not in every state they are being successful to downscale the contaminations. 

Domestic picture

Far more than 100 million vaccine doses have been administered till date in India. All states and UTs are not allocated equal number of doses. It depends on the population and the pace of vaccination of the particular state or UT. On an average 45,000 Covid-19 Vaccination Centres (CVC) are functional every day. But the union health ministry has informed that they have increased the number to 71,000 CVCs on April 12, by adding 26,000 more CVCs due to rising Covid-19 positive cases. According to a report by news house Mint, “more than 37 lakh vaccine doses were administered” on April 12 which is an encouraging sign to combat the pandemic. 

In Andhra Pradesh, there are 2,567 vaccination centres - 1,933 government centres, and 634 private facilities. In Punjab, around 750 vaccination sites - 450 government sites and 300 private sites are involved in the vaccination drive. The Delhi government aims to set up around 1,000 vaccination centres, including at nearly 260 dispensaries, at the earliest. Chhattisgarh have nearly 1,500 centres in the state. Amid significantly high rise in the second wave Covid cases Chhattisgarh is not being able to meet the targets due to low turnouts. Telangana has over 560 vaccination centres, including private and government that needs to be increased.

Vaccine shortage

Vaccination is the only way out now to control further contamination, but the drive is struggling in few states. In Maharashtra and Odisha a large number of the vaccination centres are closed due to shortage of doses. Even in West Bengal many centres are closed. So, on April 8, the union government has decided to send 17 lakh doses to Maharashtra weekly, instead of the previously promised 7.3 lakh doses. 

The union government has confirmed that Maharashtra till date has received 1.10 crore doses of Covid-19 vaccines. Additionally Gujarat and Rajasthan have also received more than 1 crore doses. Rajesh Tope, Health Minister, Maharashtra recently said that the state should get more of the vaccine as Uttar Pradesh getting over 48 lakh doses, Madhya Pradesh over 40 lakh, Gujarat over 30 lakh and Haryana over 24 lakh doses (weekly figures). On the other hand, Odisha has also written to the health ministry and urged for additional allocation of vaccine doses. So, the union ministry has decided to increase the delivery of vaccines to states.

Randeep Guleria, director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and a member of the Indian government’s Covid-19 task force stated on CNBC’s ‘Street Signs Asia’, “These vaccines are being manufactured and there is enough stock on a monthly basis. It’s an issue that they have to be distributed regularly to all areas and as states start distributing, they have to make sure that there is equitable distribution depending upon the demand.”

Maharashtra is in a critical stage

Since April, India has reported more than 779,000 Covid-19 positive cases and Maharashtra accounted for over half of them that rattled the state. As the Covid positive cases started to surge fast, the state government of Maharashtra massively increased the number of daily vaccinations. Among all states, Maharashtra has the maximum number of people vaccinated but the health ministry has alleged that the percentage of its vaccinated healthcare workers, frontline workers, senior citizens is deficient.

According to the state health department, Maharashtra has around 2,97,26,000 people above the age of 45. Among them, 4,27,589+ people aged within 45-59 years and with comorbidities and 19,60,000+ people above the age of 60 have been vaccinated till March. So, Maharashtra has sent the central government a proposal to allow 367 private and government centres to administer Covid vaccines; 209 centres have been approved so far.

India is focussing on domestic demands

The exports vaccines from India are expected to be delayed. According to the United Nations (UN) backed vaccine alliance Gavi, “Delays in granting further export licences for Serum Institute of India (SII) produced Covid-19 vaccine doses are due to the increased demand of Covid-19 vaccines in India.”

Adar Poonawalla, CEO, Serum Institute of India’s (SII) earlier said at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit (HTLS) - 2020, “It will be 2024 for everybody, if willing to take a two-dose vaccine, to be vaccinated.” But now, India with more than 1.3 billion population is struggling with the new wave of Covid-19 positive. So, the country’s government has thought that they should vaccinate their own population first; then they will export the vaccines globally. 

India is expected to nod for Sputnik V to meet increased demands

The insufficient delivery of vaccines in major affected states has worried the government. So, the Subject Expert Committee of Central Drugs and Standards Control Organisation - the drugs regulatory agency has recommended Russia’s Covid-19 vaccine ‘Sputnik V’ for emergency use authorisation. So it is expected that Sputnik V is going to be the third vaccine to be used in India after Covaxin and Covishield. In India, Sputnik V is being manufactured by Hetero and Panacea Biotech and the clinical trials are being conducted by Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories.

According to the findings published in ‘The Lancet’ journal, “interim analysis of the Phase III trial conducted in Russia had shown that Sputnik V has a 91.6% efficacy against Covid-19”. This is considerably good.

The vaccine can be stored at a temperature of +2 to +8 degrees Celsius. So it will allow easy distribution in India. Even the regions that are hard to reach, can access this vaccine without high costing cold-storages. The cost of each dose of the vaccine for international markets is less than $10. To mention, Sputnik V is a two-dose vaccine. People, who will be interested to take the vaccines soon, can opt for this. It is not yet confirmed that whether vaccination of Sputnik V will be part of the government programme or it will be available for sale at pharmacies. 

It is understandable that the inadequate doses of Covaxin and Covishield cannot meet India’s domestic demands completely. So this Sputnik V can actually be a silver lining for Indians. In that case, SII can also think to increase their export of Covishield vaccines. 


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