NEW DELHI (AP) – India has injected 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine, officials said Thursday, a milestone for the country in South Asia, where the delta variant resulted in a devastating vaccine spike earlier this year.
About 75% of all eligible adults in India have received at least one dose, while about 30% are fully immunized. The country, with a population of nearly 1.4 billion, is the second country to exceed a billion cumulative doses after China, the most populous country, to do so in June.
Coronavirus cases have plummeted in India since those devastating months earlier in the year when the highly hereditary delta variant, first discovered in the country a year ago, infected hundreds of thousands of people every day, sending patients to overcrowded hospitals and filling cremation grounds.
India confirmed more than 18,400 new cases on Thursday. According to the Ministry of Health, active cases account for less than 1% of the total number of cases, currently over 34 million, including more than 450,000 deaths.
In recent months, officials have stepped up a vaccination campaign that experts say has helped control the outbreak. The country began its movement in January.
However, an alarming gap remains between those who received only one vaccine and those who received the full immunization. As the head of the working group on COVID-19 V.K. Gender, increasing the second dose of the drug is “an important priority.”
“We would like this number to increase. Full coverage is absolutely essential, ”Paul said.
India previously said it aims to vaccinate all eligible adults by the end of the year, but experts say the current rate of immunization will need to be increased to meet this goal.
Billboards announcing the achievement, featuring a photograph of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, were displayed throughout New Delhi on Thursday. At the house of a local politician in the city, residents gathered to distribute sweets.
Officials said they will celebrate the landmark date at vaccination centers and hospitals, where they will honor leading workers.
The health minister will also present a song and film celebrating the achievement, and an Indian flag will be hoisted at the historic Red Fort in New Delhi, local media reported.
India, an important supplier of vaccines worldwide, stopped exporting in April due to a sharp rise in domestic diseases and only resumed exports earlier this month. The government is currently optimistic that the country’s growing vaccine supply will be sufficient to meet its international and domestic commitments.
Both major suppliers have boosted production, Paul said: The Whey Institute now produces about 220 million doses per month and Bharat Biotech about 30 million.
Experts say the vaccine situation requires constant revision. “There can be no clear rule – if the infection rises sharply, they can stop exports again until there are enough doses,” said K. Srinath Reddy, President of the Public Health Foundation of India.
Serological studies conducted in June and July showed that more than 60% of the population has antibodies to the coronavirus, which some experts say reduces the likelihood of another massive outbreak of the virus in the coming months.
Even states where infections spread a few weeks ago, such as Kerala on the tropical coast of Malabar, are seeing a steady decline.
“There is a sense of comfort that India has suffered from a worst case delta, but that must be accompanied by a sense of caution,” Reddy said. “Even if the number of cases increases, we are unlikely to see the scale of the outburst sooner – if it does, it will be quite unexpected.”
In recent months, life in India has returned to normal. Markets are full of activity, tourists can enter the country after a 19-month hiatus, and the country is gearing up to celebrate Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.
But there are concerns that this could be the calm before the storm. While India may have already borne the brunt of the delta option, the situation could quickly escalate if a new option emerges, either domestically or externally.
“If a virus becomes different or mutates, it changes dynamics. It can change everything, ”said Paul.