Rapid vaccination is key to lifting Covid restrictions, re-opening the economy and returning to normal, the government said Tuesday, a day after a renewed push to inoculate all eligible beneficiaries (at this stage) resulted in a record 86.16 lakh people being given doses.
The government also dismissed concerns about availability of doses - an issue flagged by several states, including Bengal last week - saying it anticipated supply of 20-22 crore doses in July, and planned to vaccinate "at least one crore every day".
"We need to do our daily work, maintain our social life, open schools, businesses, take care of our economy; we will be able to do all this only when we are able to vaccinate at a fast pace," Dr VK Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog, said in a statement issued this morning.
Dr Paul highlighted the need to get vaccinated as soon as possible, saying: "The second wave has now receded and it is the best time to take the vaccine."
He also urged people to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour, even after getting the vaccine, in order to guard against a third wave of infections, or at least ensure it is not as bad as the second.
"Why will there be a third wave if we follow Covid-appropriate behaviour and get vaccinated? There are many countries where even the second wave has not arrived; if we follow Covid-appropriate behaviour, this period will pass," he said.
On Monday - the first day of the central government's renewed vaccination push - data from the CoWIN digital platform showed 86,16,373 shots were administered in 24 hours.
This was more than double the previous record - 42,65,157 doses on April 2.
Dr NK Arora, the Chairperson of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, or NTAGI, praised the achievement but warned it was only the first step.
"Our aim is to vaccinate at least one crore people every day. Our capacity is such that we will easily be able to administer 1.25 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccines every day," he said.
While this is an ambitious target - particularly given supply issues and vaccine hesitancy that marked the initial stages of the vaccination drive - it is one the government has stressed on in the past.
Earlier this month ICMR chief Dr Balram Bhargava said at least one crore vaccines would be available per day to meet the goal of vaccinating all beneficiaries - around 108 crore - by the end of the year.
"There is NO shortage of vaccines. This (shortage) is what you feel if you want to vaccinated the country within a month (but) our population is four times that of the United States. Need to have some patience... by mid-July, or early-August, we'll have doses for a crore a day," he had said.
Last month a top central advisor said over 200 crore doses will likely be available by December.