India has administered 50 million doses of vaccine so far with 8 million people fully vaccinated (those who have received both doses), government data released on March 23 showed. Although 8 million is a big number, it represents just 1.1 per cent of all adults above 25 years in the country, points out Dr Ravi Wankhedkar, former national president of Indian Medical Association.
Another 34 million or 5 per cent of the population above 25 have received the first shot of the vaccine, according to the ministry of health and family welfare data.
“The slow progress is in part due to the very centralized operation of the vaccination campaign. They should allow the states to take more initiative and prioritize districts where Covid is maximum,” says the coloproctologist.
The government has so far classified 10 districts as hotspots. In addition, 51 districts out of 706 districts in the country have been identified to have nearly 60 per cent of cases.
India’s population is 1,393 million, of whom around 1,000 million are adults. Of thm, around 700 million are over the age of 25.
“The percentage measure (adults over 25) was empirically chosen to represent the population that is at greater risk. If calculated for the whole population of 1,393 million, 0.6 per cent got 2 doses, 2.4 per cent are partially vaccinated,” points out Wankhedkar, who is treasurer of the World Medical Association.
While lauding the government decision to provide vaccination to those over 45 years of age from April, Wankhedkar feel everyone over the age of 18 should be given the option of getting the vaccine so that the risk of infection among a large part of the working population reduces.
Voicing support for the Indonesian model of the vaccination programme, Wankhedkar feels it would help check resurgence of Covid. Indonesia is providing vaccination to those over 60 years of age in addition to all those working in vulnerable jobs. Under a PPP model, the private and other establishments have been given the option of vaccinating their staff, irrespective of their age, at their own cost.
The risk of death with Covid-19 steeply climbs past middle age. The objective of vaccination is to reduce the deaths and severe disease from SARS-CoV-2 infection.
“Fortunately, as compared to continental Europe and the US, the vaccine hesitancy is very low in India. The quicker we vaccinate the vulnerable groups, the faster we can reduce death rates from future waves of the pandemic,” stresses Wankhedkar.