India’s Feat of Achieving the 1 Billion Vaccination – In the Face of Other’s Faltering

The Performance of Other Countries in Achieving the 1 billion Covid-19 Vaccine Mark

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has addressed all countries to ensure that by June 2022; at least 70% of their population must be fully vaccinated. It was on 21st October 2021 that 100 crore COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered in India, which is within 278 days since 16th January ’21, the beginning of the vaccination rollout – considering it as a remarkable feat, just months after the second wave of covid-19 had killed thousands of people across the country. By the end of 2021, India aims to cross the 70% mark.

To curb the spread of infections due to deadly pandemics, both the central and the state governments have worked intensely. They have taken the necessary steps to combat challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The committed efforts and hard work of the frontline workers like the medical doctors, nurses, healthcare and sanitation workers, police personnel and volunteers, and also, the obedience and support of the Indian citizens, had been the reasons as to how the pandemic was controlled to a certain extent. In January 2020, for testing COVID-19, India had just one testing laboratory: the Indian Council of Medical Research’s National Institute of Virology, Pune. Approximately 555 laboratories were set up by May across the country. At present, the number of operational labs stands 1105 (government labs being 788 and private labs being 317) to deal with the increasing number of Covid-19 cases.

The Health Minister of India, on September 2020, had announced that plans of approval and distribution of vaccines of COVID-19 were to be conducted by the first quarter of the year 2021 – whereby the health workers dealing with the COVID-19 patients directly would be the first recipients. The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) on 1st January 2021 approved the emergency use of ‘Covishield’ (Oxford-AstraZeneca Vaccine) and an interim use of a domestic vaccine ‘Covaxin’ (BBV152) on 2nd January 2021 which is developed by Bharat Biotech in association with ICMR and National Institute of Virology. The ones receiving Covaxin was asked to sign a consent form as then, it did not complete its 3rd phase clinical trials. In the initial days of the first phase of vaccine rollout, there were concerns regarding low turnouts due to reasons like safety issues of vaccines, software issues and technical problems, and misinformation.

Residents above the age of 60 years, people with one or more qualifying comorbidities within 45 to 60 years of age and the frontline workers who did not receive their first dose of vaccine were all eligible for vaccination under the second phase rollout. On 1st March, the online registration for vaccination was started via Aarogya Setu app and the CoWIN website. Suspension of vaccine exports on 1st March 2021 was decided as the country was facing its major second wave of infections. Residents above the age of 45 years were given vaccination approval on 1st April 2021.

Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine was approved by DCGI on 12th April ’21 for emergency use in India. Under the third phase, the eligibility was extended to all those citizens who were above the age of 18 years which began on 1st May 2021, the registration of which began on 28th April ’21. Under this phase, more flexibility was granted to the Graph 1individual stakeholders as to how they were willing to conduct the vaccination programme. The central government would distribute a portion of the vaccines procured by the Central Drugs Laboratory from the manufacturers. The government-run clinics received these supplies, which were free of cost, and the remainder was offered to individual states and purchased on the open market. On 29th June 2021, the ‘Moderna’ vaccine, imported by Cipla and on 7th August 2021, the Johnson and Johnson single-dose vaccine were approved by DCGI for emergency use. The 55 million mark of cumulative doses were graph 2surpassed on 16th August 2021. In addition to these, the world’s first DNA based COVID -19 vaccines, manufactured by Zydus Cadila, ‘ZyCOV-d’, and was approved for emergency use in India for adults and children of 12 years and above. It is a needle-free applicator vaccine with three doses and is to be included in India’s vaccination programme.

The first state to administer first dose of vaccine on 100% of its population was Himachal Pradesh and by the month of September ’21 many city corporations had a similar success.

Graph 3Enrollment of children of the age group 7-11 years were allowed to the Serum Institute by the government and India’s drug regulator for the COVID vaccine trials.

1 billion marks for the administered doses were crossed on 21st October, 2021. 100 crore COVID-19 vaccination of India could not have been achieved without the immense efforts and contributions of our country’s scientists, healthcare workers, citizens and the government. Such an achievement is likely to provide a strong boost to fight against the pandemic.

The Performance of Other Countries in Achieving the 1 billion Covid-19 Vaccine Mark

To begin with, China has administered more than 2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to its people. China had crossed its 1 billion mark much before India in June 2021, and as of today, its 76.3% population has been inoculated fully. It has been observed that China has been able to control the spread of the deadly Corona Virus quite swiftly. It has been said that the Residential Committees (RCs) at the grassroots level played the most crucial part in this aspect. Although not a part of the state, they are committees for effective governance and political control – defined as institutions of self-governance. In Wuhan, during the initial days of the spread of the virus, 7148 communities were completely closed. There was the implementation of strict rules on the entry and exit of residents. The door-to-door inspection was done on a regular basis like temperature checks, delivery of essential food items to elderly by RCs, etc. In addition to this, gathering information about the travel history, contract tracing, visiting and registering each individual, placing the infected and the sick residents under the community management, and then their transfer to the respective medical facilities for quarantine. This model was followed all over the country, and a centralized aspect is considered to be the key of the model. Currently, China is facing a new wave of COVID-19 cases, where 21 provinces have been affected, viz. two-thirds of the country. In the past two months, several cities and areas have been shut down by the Chinese authorities to curb the spread. Residents have been asked to store a certain quantity of essential items due to rising cases and food shortages across the country. They have been trying to pace up with the vaccination of children, and also, those associated with healthcare and education have been provided booster shots.

Next, we shall talk about New Zealand, which had been successful in combating the spread of the virus much early. It had started implementing influenza pandemic plans across the country from the month of February, which included preparing hospitals for the upcoming treatment. Also, to delay the arrival of the pandemic, border-control measures were also implemented then. The country had a complete lockdown on 26th March 2020, whereby the main aim of the leaders was to eliminate the pandemic rather than mitigate the disease. The last identified covid-19 case was observed in the month of May, after which by June, the country declared the end of the pandemic. Proper and immediate assessment of risk was done with the government’s decisive actions and implementation of science. Faster elimination of the virus was possible in the country by effective border control measures – both at the individual case-based and community-based.

Another country, the actions of which have puzzled the health experts as to how rapidly their actions have been successful in combating the spread of Covid-19 cases, was Japan. When covid-19 hit Japan in January 2020, the public health centres took every possible action to put an end to the community spread of the virus. They managed proper sorting and allocation of patients, contact tracing, testing all by themselves, and aided patients with COVID-Info 119 move to the designated hospitals for isolation, regardless to what extent the symptoms were. The cases grew rapidly in the month of March ‘20, and the designated hospitals were overflowing. By the month of April, allocation of patients took place to a wider network of hospitals and those asymptomatic and with mild symptoms were urged to isolate in their respective homes or in converted hotels. Commercial labs were brought in to aid for COVID-19 testing, and by May, the curve was flattened. Japan had been following the cluster-based approach combined with the three C’s (Closed spaces with poor ventilation, many people nearby in crowded places, and close contacts places, where close conversation takes place), which is basically a social distancing method. The strategy of blocking the source of cluster and infection routes closures along with the above-mentioned methods have helped Japan in combating the spread. Along with this, many believe that the vaccination campaign, especially among the younger people, have brought the infections down. The surge in vaccination was observed from July to September, at a time when the Delta variant was also spreading. There have been fears that the relaxation of restrictions on public places might lead to another major spike of cases.

Russia has been the first country in the world to register for the COVID-19 vaccine, but despite this fact, its own vaccination campaign has lost momentum. The reason behind this is shortage of vaccination supplies, vaccine hesitancy, and high infection rates. The registration of Sputnik V vaccine took place in August 2020, and the vaccination campaign started in December 2020 along with two other local vaccines. But the vaccination rates remained low. Research conducted has disclosed that almost 62% of Russians have no plans of getting their vaccination done, and the reason is them being most probably anti-vaxxers. Some prominent Doctors have made an effort to convince them to get inoculated on time to curb the spread of the deadly virus. There are also people who are spreading false information regarding the dangers of vaccination, and hence, the respective authorities have been instructed to report people responsible for it. Not only the common people, but some research have disclosed that even some doctors are reluctant for vaccination, and also, they would not suggest their patients to take it for COVID-19 or any disease. Along with hesitancy, there has been a shortage of supplies also. Almost 60 countries have approved the use of Sputnik V, and with such a rising demand for the vaccine, shortages have been observed in the producing country itself. Another factor that has led to a low vaccination rate in Russia is a widespread misconception amongst people that once infected; one does not need a vaccine – he/she is immune. Various steps have been taken to combat the situation. President Putin has urged the citizens to go for vaccinations which have been available at places now free of cost. Some parts of the county have started mandatory vaccination.

Fallacies of India’s Policies

It has been established by several studies that greater protection from coronavirus can be received when people are vaccinated with two doses rather than one, that too within a stipulated period of time. Approximately 11 crore people have not got themselves vaccinated with the second dose of the vaccine even though the stipulated time gap has been expired. The government data shows, approximately 4 crore adults are overdue 6 weeks for their second dose, those 4 to 6 weeks late are approximately 1.57 crore, those who are 2 to 4 weeks overdue are more than 1.5 crores, and those who are up to 2 weeks late for their second dose are approximately 3.38 crore. It has been reported that people are reluctant for the second dose as the covid-19 infections have come down. In addition to this, another reason that could have made people so reluctant is fear of body ache or fever, which they had after the first vaccine dose, could occur once again with the second vaccine dose. The scenario is quite problematic, particularly when the vaccination supplies are quite stable now in India. It has been observed that the authorities are not doing enough to overcome this problematic situation. In some states, the health staff had to make personal visits at home or make phone calls, insisting them take the second dose on time.

Info 2Adults in India who have received both the doses of vaccine for COVID-19 are approximately 32%, whereas those who received just one dose are more than 76%. The benefit of receiving both doses on time would have been sufficient to spur people to get them fully vaccinated. But if people are failing to do so, the central government, along with the state government, should make them aware and understand via media campaigns and appropriate advisories. Ensuring people are taking their second dose on time is considered a challenge for the authorities.

In some states, freebies are distributed, and in states like Gujarat, ropeway rides and free medical kits have been distributed to those people who are fully vaccinated. For many states, fighting vaccine hesitancy is the next biggest step.

The Indian Economy

In the recent past, the coronavirus pandemic has represented one of the biggest threats to not only the lives of the people but also the economy all over the world. In the backdrop of the pandemic, significant changes have been brought on the daily lives of people, and, be it the society or the economy as a whole, it is still trying to reshape itself.

As we are well aware, a strict lockdown protocol was followed with the rising number of cases to contain the virus. In India, on 24th March 2020, a complete lockdown was implemented, creating immense chaos all over the country. The GDP in April to June 2020 quarter contracted 24%, which was followed by a 7.4% contraction in the next quarter. The covid-19 pandemic, along with fallacies in government policies, had exposed and worsened the inequalities existing in the Indian economy. As per the data, India was the second-highest country with confirmed Covid-19 cases after the US.

The rollout of the vaccines has been the biggest relief. People have started moving out now, and, again, trying to live the way it was prior Covid 19. Different regions have unlocked themselves, thereafter, resuming businesses and opening restaurants, marketplaces, and shopping centres. Different sectors of the economy and the economy, as a whole, are gradually growing.

From its lowest in the year 2020, the Indian economy is once again bouncing back. One can say the thing which has been like a booster shot for the Indian economy was the successful vaccination in India. It was also observed that the optimistic nature of the people had attracted higher investments, thereafter, increasing the employment rate gradually and benefitting the economy as a whole.

As per the Ministry of Statistics, in the 4th quarter of the year 2020, India’s growth had fallen to 3.1% – occurring in the backdrop of Rs. 900 -crore infused by the government to help the development of COVID -19 vaccines in the Department of Biotechnology. For the vaccine procurement, Rs. 35,000 crore was allocated in the budget of 2021, which was considered to cover up to half of India’s population vaccination. There has been an increasing supply of vaccines by the manufacturers and the suppliers with increasing demand. This increase in the vaccination drive has further led to speeding up the normalizing process, whereby stringent lockdown rules are gradually easing. For instance, now, workspaces are running at their full capacity, like the factories, which has begun rehiring those who are unemployed.

The first quarter of the year 2021-22 was affected by the second wave of Covid-19. In March 2021, it was observed that there were political, religious and social gatherings where people had a very carefree attitude towards the pandemic – fuelled a false sense of normalcy. The result – the cases of COVID-19 rose again, acute shortage of oxygen all over the nation and an overburdened healthcare system. Although the real state of the healthcare facility and the system altogether were exposed in the 1st wave of COVID-19, the focus was mainly on vaccine development. At that time, India was basically left with two options – either go for an entire lockdown again or vaccinates the entire population – both of which seemed impossible. Vaccinating the entire population would have taken the time and much of the resources.

The approach of the government has been quite different while dealing with the second wave of the pandemic, whereby the second wave had a localized response to it, rules being implemented by the states. Longer and stricter lockdowns were observed in the rural parts of the country. The mandis were closed for operations due to the lockdown. During the peak harvesting times, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan mandis were shut down – as a result of which suffered the vegetable vendors and the processing industries. A wide difference was observed in the average wage growth for the agricultural sector, where it reduced from 8.5% (April to August ’20-1st wave) to 2.9% (Nov ’20 to March ’21 -during the 2nd wave). The manufacturing sector in the economy was working at a lesser capacity or was shut down, where, worst hit were the once manufacturing non-essential items, facing stricter restrictions. After the 1st wave, the global and the local supply chains have not fully started operating, and this meant that both the small and large industries had to bear high costs for procuring raw materials. Next, we shall talk about the services sector of the economy, which contributes more than 50% to GDP. Development of infrastructure and working remotely was the prime focus during the 1st wave of the pandemic. The employees took some time to get accustomed to the new method of working from home and, gradually, productivity reached the pre-Covid levels. Although there were slight disruptions during the 2nd wave but it was not much affected when compared to the agriculture and services sector.

Info 3As a result of the increasing vaccination drive in the country, the rising cases have not only come down, but various sectors have shown an improvement as a result. The tourism sector, considered an important sector, is heading back towards recovery, gradually easing restrictions. For the first time since March 2020, fully vaccinated foreign tourists are allowed to visit the country on regular commercial flights, keeping in mind the necessary COVID-19 guidelines to be followed. Along with the earnings, the sector is expected to bring employment to those seeking for a job.

Next, we shall talk about the real estate market, regarding which the experts are cautioned that it is likely to take another year or two to come back to its normal phase. The current and the future sentiments on real estate are optimistic as per the reports, and improvements have been observed in the 3rd quarter of 2021. The increasing vaccination drive, coupled with decreasing number of cases in the country, are reasons why the commercial and residential real estate market has seen a significant revival.

The IIP has witnessed a Year-on-Year growth of 11.5% in July 2021 with easing of localized mobility and restrictions. Also, there have been signs indicating that the industry is likely to grow further in the coming months, with the eight core sector industries recovering 104% of their corresponding pre-pandemic levels.

Some experts are of the opinion that with improved health infrastructure, rapid vaccination rollout, the Indian economy will be able to perform better in the coming days and is likely to come out stronger in the next financial year.

Conclusion

Vaccines that have been administered are not only important from the point of view that one can go out freely, considering covid-19 protocols being followed, but are also important from the point of view that one’s future is to be planned in an optimistic way. There is a large section of unvaccinated people, which includes children that can pose a threat to India’s recovery. Experts are of the opinion that there are possibilities of long-term investments by the investors globally, considering the global and domestic industry recovery, PM GATI Shakti programme, National Demonetization Plan, the National Infrastructure Pipeline and improved ease of doing business In India.

Info 4The risk of Covid-19 pandemic has resurfaced, once again, with the spread of new Omicron Variant of covid-19. As a result, there have been strict testing at the airport, and also, there are orders to review the decision of easing travel curbs. There are high risks of global growth being slowed down and manufacturing prices rising. In addition to this, the Reserve Bank of India has cut down interest rates and injected liquidity to boost up the economy, is planning to take out liquidity to stabilize rates amid inflationary concerns.

The 100 crore vaccination in India is not the destination but a journey, and there is still a long way to go. With the increase in vaccination supply, the pace of vaccination drive is also increased, especially the second dose of the vaccine to reach the goal. The children are our future – vaccination has become quite essential, and there is a long way to go. There is a target set to inoculate the adult population by the end of 2021, and strong efforts are being made in this respect. To deal with the new variant of COVID-19, Omicron, INSACOG (the Indian SARS COV2 Genomic Consortium – consortium of 28 laboratories monitoring genomic variations in coronavirus) has suggested booster doses to those above the age of 40 years, and also, vaccination of those who are yet to be vaccinated. This suggestion has been put forward by the INSACOG as the new variant Omicron is a highly mutated variant and it is also predicted that prior immunity received from vaccination or natural infection might wane, resulting in them being at risk too. Strategies have been implemented in India to stop the entry and spread of the Omicron variant in India, as it is believed by the experts that vaccine-induced immunity and natural immunity will not be sufficient to curb its growth.

Although there have been sufficient supplies of vaccines in India, the demand is decreasing. Experts believe that a lot more effort has to be given to achieve the set target. There is a need to identify areas having low vaccination rates and areas where it is unreached and ensure they too have high rates of coverage of vaccination drive. It is the duty of the citizens to understand the importance of vaccines to curb the spread of the pandemic, which has taken a toll on millions of lives all over the world. The authorities must take necessary steps as it will not only save lives but would be beneficial for the country and its economic health as a whole. All must adopt appropriate behavior to mitigate diseases and its effects in order to have a healthy nation. A Healthy Nation requires Healthy Citizens, and a Healthy Nation is a Wealthy Nation.

References

  1. Road to 100 crore : covid19india.org
  2. Vaccine administration by vaccine brand : cowin.gov.in
  3. vaccine administration by age group : cowin.gov.in

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