| 4 December 2021, Saturday |

India hits 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses

Indian officials said on Thursday that the country has administered 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine, , passing a milestone for the South Asian country where the delta variant fueled its first crushing surge earlier this year.

Almost 75 percent of India’s total eligible adult population have took at least one shot, while nearly 30 percent are fully immunized. The country of nearly 1.4 billion people is the second to surpass a billion cumulative doses after the most populous country China did so in June.

Coronavirus cases have dropped sharply in India since the overwhelming months at the start of the year when the highly transmissible delta variant, first detected in the country a year ago, was infecting hundreds of thousands daily, sending COVID-19 patients into overwhelmed hospitals and filling cremation grounds.

Officials have boosted the inoculation campaign in recent months, which experts say have helped control the outbreak since.

Still, there remains a worrying gap between those who have received one shot and those fully immunized. Ramping up the second dose is “an important priority,” V K Paul, the head of the country’s COVID-19 taskforce, said at a briefing last week.

“We would like to see this number go up. Complete coverage is absolutely critical,” he said.

India, an important supplier of vaccines globally, halted exports in April as cases at home surged and only resumed exports earlier this month. The government is now optimistic that the country’s vaccine supply, which has seen a rise, will be enough to cover its international and domestic commitments.

Paul said Both that the two main suppliers have ramped up production, with the Serum Institute now producing around 220 million jabs a month and some 30 million from Bharat Biotech.

But there are fears this could be a lull before the storm. Even though India may have borne the brunt of the delta variant already, things could escalate quickly if a new variant emerges — either from within the country or outside.

“If the virus becomes different or mutates, it changes the dynamics. This could change everything,” said Paul.