India hits 1B vaccine doses, worries about gap between shots

NEW DELHI (AP) – India has administered one billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines, officials said yesterday, a milestone for the South Asian country where the Delta variant fuelled a crushing surge earlier this year.

About 75 per cent of India’s total eligible adult population has received at least one dose, while around 30 per cent is fully immunised.

The country of nearly 1.4 billion people is the second to exceed a billion cumulative doses after China, the most populous country, did so in June.

Coronavirus cases have fallen sharply in India since the devastating 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 patients into overwhelmed hospitals and filling cremation grounds.

Yesterday, India confirmed more than 18,400 new cases. Active cases make up less than one per cent of its total caseload, now more than 34 million, including over 450,000 deaths, according to the Health Ministry.

People wait to register their names to get inoculated against the coronavirus in Hyderabad, India. PHOTO: AP

Officials have bolstered the vaccination campaign in recent months, which experts said has helped control the outbreak. The country began its drive in January.

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

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

India earlier said it aimed to vaccinate all eligible adults by the end of the year, but experts said the current pace of immunisations will need to increase to meet this goal.

Billboards announcing the achievement with a photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi were posted across New Delhi yesterday. Outside a local politician’s house in the city, residents gathered as sweets were distributed.

Officials said they will mark the milestone at vaccination centres and hospitals where frontline workers will be celebrated.