Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday expressed concern about the flagging pace of vaccinations as he held a meeting to review the public health response to the coronavirus crisis marked by shortages of the jabs as well as essentials like hospital beds and oxygen that have led to thousands of deaths.
"PM was briefed that around 31 per cent of eligible population over the age of 45 has been given at least one dose. PM spoke about the need to sensitise states that the speed of vaccination doesn't come down. Citizens should be facilitated for vaccination despite lockdowns and healthcare workers involved in vaccination must not be diverted for other duties," a note from his office said.
Despite being the global hub of vaccine manufacturing, India has vaccinated a minuscule portion of its vast 136 crore population and many states have complained they don't have enough stocks, inviting criticism that PM Modi's government dropped the ball on acquiring enough vaccines on time.
Rebuffing charges of lapses, the central government has passed on much of the burden to states to procure vaccines directly from manufacturers at far higher prices to inoculate those under 45 years of age.
In his review meeting, attended by all senior ministers, the Prime Minister was informed about the 12 states which have more than 1 lakh active cases and briefed about the ramping up of healthcare infrastructure by the states, his office said.
"PM directed that states should be given help and guidance about leading indicators to ramp up healthcare infrastructure," it said.
The review comes amid protracted criticism of the government's inability to provide states and territories like Delhi enough medical oxygen that has left hospitals and patients to fend for themselves in a health crisis that has drawn international attention.
"PM also reviewed the availability of medicines. He was briefed about the rapid augmenting of production of medicines including Remdesivir," his office said, about the drug used in Covid treatment that been in short supply forcing people to flood social media with SOS calls.
Hopes that India's deadly second wave of COVID-19 was about to peak were swept away on Thursday as it posted record daily infections and deaths and as the virus spread from cities to villages across the nation.
India reported a record 4,12,262 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours and a record 3,980 deaths. COVID-19 infections have now surged past 2.1 crore, with deaths at 2,30,168, health ministry data shows.
Government modelling had forecast a peak in second wave infections by Wednesday.
With hospitals scrabbling for beds and oxygen in response to the surge in infections, the World Health Organization said in a weekly report that India accounted for nearly half the coronavirus cases reported worldwide last week and a quarter of the deaths. India has 34.5 crore active cases.
Medical experts say India's actual figures could be five to 10 times the official tallies.
(With inputs from agencies)