India has carried out four million vaccinations against COVID-19. It achieved this milestone faster than any other country in the world, the Union Health Ministry claims.
The country launched its vaccination drive on January 16th and accomplished the feat of four million vaccinations within eighteen days, according to official data. By comparison, Israel and the United Kingdom were able to inoculate four million of their population in 39 days. The United States took twenty days. The country is expected to be at the centre of the global vaccination campaign against COVID-19, being home to the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer – the Serum Institute of India.
“As on February, 1, India was among the top five countries in terms of number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered to people,” the Ministry said. “India continues to undertake its vaccination drive at a fast pace.” It further highlighted the country’s high recovery rate, noting “the gap between active cases and recovered cases is continuously increasing.” More than 83 percent of cases are concentrated in six states and union territories.
“India has successfully contained the pandemic,” Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan asserted in a statement last week. “India has flattened its COVID-19 graph.”
India’s vaccination campaign against COVID-19 has been described by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the world’s largest. Indeed, vaccinating a population of more than 1.3 billion is a herculean task – compounded by issues such as doubts about the two vaccines approved by the Government thus far and misinformation about vaccines in general denting public trust.
As reported by Reuters, “an inoculation campaign touted by the government as the world’s biggest is progressing unevenly, with a survey showing more than half of Indians reluctant to get vaccinated immediately.” Last year, a survey posited the number of those reluctant to be inoculated was even higher, suggesting almost sixty percent of the population may refuse a vaccine.
Vaccine hesitancy has been of particular concern among healthcare workers, part of the cohort prioritised for vaccinations in the first phase of the country’s vaccine rollout. “A majority of us do not want to be guinea pigs,” one health worker at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) explained. In Delhi alone, fewer than thirty percent of healthcare workers surveyed across six government-run hospitals said they had opted in to receive the shot. Nationally, India has succeeded in vaccinating 47 percent of healthcare workers enrolled.
“We are not against the vaccine,” the AIIMS worker insisted. “I will tell everyone to take the vaccine, but I am not yet ready to take a vaccine for which the trials have not even been completed. A majority of us do not want to be guinea pigs. This is going to be the largest trial. Most of us have decided to wait, though we all gave our names.”