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Can India Keep Up a Record Pace for Vaccinations?

India's vaccination numbers hit 90 lakh doses the other day. Is that a meaningful change? or a mere gimmick?


India hit a record 90 lakh vaccine doses on the first day of the newly revised vaccine policy (21 June, 2021) [1] that allocated 75% of the capacity to the Central Government directly and opened up free vaccines for all above 18. It was a stupendous and spectacular achievement and a world record for the greatest number of COVID-19 vaccines in a single day.


India's vaccination pace illustrated in a graph. Sourced from the CoWIN Dashboard


However, people are more than willing to cast shade on the effort as the states ruled by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) dominated the numbers. The accusation is that there was a stockpiling of vaccines the week before, and a low turnout on Sunday.


While there is no doubt a slanted amount due to stocks being utilised to boost numbers by some states such as Madhya Pradesh, this criticism entirely missed the point: the revised policy also freed up Central doses that were up until reserved for 45+ age group to all - which meant that the availability of doses for those below 45 increased as well.


It can be seen that the uptick for vaccines among 45+ and 60+ remained marginal while a good 82 lakh doses were administered to those between 18-45 on June 21.[2]


The Age wise COVID-19 vaccination effort

The fact that this is not just a ‘gimmick’ can also be evinced from the fact that 54.22 lakh doses were provided today (22 June, 2021) as per the CoWIN dashboard. A drop from the 85-lakh administered yesterday, but still higher than the 32.65 Lakh average the earlier week (14 June 2021 - 20 June 2021).[3]


As for the supposedly lower turnout on Sundays, this has been consistent theme since the beginning, and it was only on 20 June that the number of vaccines administered on Sunday crossed 15 lakhs for the first time in the past few weeks.


A marked increase in availability across the board

The availability of vaccines has also increased due to the augmentations in production capacity as well, with an expected 12 crore doses available in June compared to 7.94 crore in May 2021.


The dosage availability as on June 22, 2021 also shows significant stocks remain with the states to be administered:



As per the Press Information Bureau release on 20th June, 2021 around 3.06 crore doses were available to states. This means that the uptick is not merely eating up buffer stock, but availability has broadly increased with at 1.72 crore on June 01, 2021.


Moreover, the uptick is merely limited to BJP-ruled states. While Opposition states such as Rajasthan and Maharashtra performed sluggishly on 21 June, both Odisha and Kerala witnessed increases in doses administered:


Kerala’s vaccination numbers witnessed an increase on 21 June 2021

Odisha’s vaccination numbers also increased on 21 June, 2021

Both Kerala (2,29,987) and Odisha (2,58,889) administered more doses on 22 June 2021[4], than any other day in the past few weeks in these states.


West Bengal, which is clearly a state most unfriendly to the current Central dispensation, still witnessed an uptick with 3.27 lakh doses being administered, highest ever in the past few weeks despite the State Government supposedly limiting dosage to only ‘priority groups’.


West Bengal’s vaccination coverage also improved, with 3.27 lakh doses on 21 June and 2.96 lakh on 22 June 2021.

West Bengal’s vaccination coverage also improved, with 3.27 lakh doses on 21 June and 2.96 lakh on 22 June 2021.


Misleading Narratives

Administering a record number of vaccine doses as the achievement created by merely the BJP states undermines the effort taken by all citizens regardless of political orientation, caste, creed or any other identity other than proud Indians fighting against the deadliest pandemic in a century.


Even when it comes to BJP states such as Uttar Pradesh, the accusation that vaccine stocks were built up and not administered are quite clearly wrong as the 7-day average for vaccines administered on 07 June was 3.39 lakh and 3.81 lakh on 14 June (It was 4.15 lakh on 21 June).

Uttar Pradesh also administered 7.96 lakh doses on 22 June compared to 7.25 lakh on 21 June. With 30 lakh doses available as of now, the state can surely maintain a consistent increase as well.


The Uttar Pradesh CoWIN chart shows a near consistent concave shape, with doses reducing on Tuesday and Wednesday before increasing on Thursday- Saturday before falling to near-zero on Sunday.


The Uttar Pradesh vaccination chart as per the CoWIN dashboard.

The accusation of stockpiling vaccines merely for 21 June 2021 can also shown to be false by looking at the average number of doses in a week nationally.


As stated earlier, 32.65 Lakh was the average the earlier week (14 June 2021 - 20 June 2021) while the week preceding that (07 June 2021 - 13 June 2021) the average was 30.05 lakh. Therefore, there is a clear marked increase on a week-by-week basis as well. Thus, the contention that major stockpiling was done in order to boost the number of vaccinations is misleading.


There has been a consistent growth in the 7-day average of vaccines administered in the country, an increase in doses available for the 18+ and production augmentation, and more vaccine candidates in the wings.


While we may not hit 90 lakhs on a single day again on June, with a possible 20-22 crore doses available in July the feat will most likely be repeated or broken in July 2021.


 

[1] Number revised to reflect the revised numbers as per the CoWIN Portal.


[2] This incidentally means that there needs to be greater efforts made to reach out to priority groups as well.


[3] calculated the 7-day average from CoWIN myself. Hopefully there is no mistakes.


[4] Numbers provided for vaccines administered on 22 June, 2021 are only indicative from the CoWIN Dashboard as the final numbers are not available at the time of writing.





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