India has administered more than 1 crore vaccination doses till now and also achieved its highest daily vaccinations with nearly 6.6 lakh or 6,58,674 vaccine doses being administered on Thursday. India is administering an average of nearly 3 lakh doses everyday.
But as the fear of new variants looms, the race to vaccinate has become all the more important. In order to achieve its goal of 30 crore vaccinations by July 2021, India will have to vaccinate over 20 lakh people every day.
However, some states which are seeing a spike in cases are also seeing a low rollout of vaccinations. In Maharashtra, only 54 per cent of the targeted healthcare workers have been vaccinated. Maharashtra is not even among the top 15 states in terms of vaccinated beneficiaries.
In Punjab, only 38 per cent of the targeted healthcare workers have been vaccinated even though it has been more than a month since the drive was launched.
Another challenge facing India is that there are not enough takers yet for the second dose of the vaccine. According to the Centre for Policy Research (CPR), it has been six days since the drive to give second doses began, but so far the daily turnout has reached only 44 per cent. It was 10 per cent on February 12, five per cent on February 14, 24 per cent on February 13, 34 per cent on February 16, 35 per cent on February 17 and 44 per cent on February 18.
10 million+ and rising daily vaccinations as 2nd doses grow. As of Feb 18, cumulative vaccinations at 10,188,007 & daily vaccination at 765,779 as reported by @DeptHealthRes@MoHFW_INDIA. State details at https://t.co/rpw7MFSRkmpic.twitter.com/CguqDRcRII— CPR India (@CPR_India) February 19, 2021
Senior Fellow at Centre for Policy Research, Partha Mukhopadhyay, said: "What we are seeing from the data is that the number of people who are showing up for second dose is only one-third of what should be the actual turnout. Only 1 out of 3 are coming forward. These are healthcare workers, not people you have to chase after or have difficulty in locating. If this pattern continues in the broader public then it will be harder to locate them."
Doctors worry that this could make the vaccination drive weaker amid emergence of new strains.
Dr Ajeet Jain, Nodal Officer for Covid at Delhi government-run Rajiv Gandhi Superspeciality Hospital, said: "The confidence level of the healthcare workers has gone up because the number of patients is very less, so they are taking it very casually as if the disease has gone. Many think that countries like UK are giving it at interval of 12 weeks so they can take it lightly here and don't have to necessarily follow the 28 day rule."
He said three variants have already been reported here (from UK, Brazil and South Africa) "and what we are seeing in Maharashtra and Kerala, there could be a different variant there and we could see a second wave."
"We need to have extensive campaigns and public messaging to ensure that the second dose is also being taken on time. We had held multiple counselling sessions for healthcare workers in the initial phase of vaccine hesitancy. Similar counselling sessions need to be held again to ensure that everybody takes their second dose also on time," he added.
To increase the speed of vaccination, the government plans to increase the current 11,000 daily vaccination sessions by five times and has been carrying out online campaigns to create awareness about the second dosage of vaccination.
The Union Health Minister has also issued an appeal, asking the medical community and frontline workers to come forward and take the COVID-19 vaccine.
He said: "The nation is indebted to your dedication and sacrifice. Do not fall prey to the campaigns of misinformation and falsehood. Both the vaccines cleared by the country's Drugs Controller General are Safe and Immunogenic. It is my appeal to all healthcare workers as well as frontline workers to please get your vaccine doses as per schedule. Healthcare workers should get vaccinated with the first dose by February 25 and similarly, frontline workers should get vaccinated with the first dose by March 6."
The Union Health Minister had earlier said that vaccinations for the general public will begin around second or third week of March, when 27 crore people will start getting vaccinated including those who are either above the age of 50 or below 50 but have comorbidities.