Out of a total of 222,000 confirmed , more than 57,000 were registered last month. That’s about 80 deaths per hour, and since the government’s toll only includes COVID deaths recorded in hospitals, many believe the true toll is much higher. Even the official death rate continued to climb. Over the past two weeks, the virus has claimed about 120 deaths per hour, on average.
“I have lost all hope,” Lily Priyamvada Pant told CBS News at a Delhi crematorium on Sunday. She had just seen her 40-year-old son’s funeral pyre burned. Her whole family caught the virus and her husband was still in an intensive care unit, unaware that his eldest son had died of the disease.
“The doctors told me if you tell him he won’t survive,” she said. “He’s a CEO of one company and a director of many companies… but he couldn’t help anything. “
The feeling of helplessness is now familiar in Indian cities, and there is no indication yet that the dizzying infection rate is starting to drop rapidly. The large number of people with the disease has crippled the country’s healthcare system, even in its wealthiest mega-cities.
There were reports Tuesday that dozens of staff at the U.S. Embassy in Delhi were among the latest confirmed infections, but an embassy spokesperson told CBS News that if the health and the safety of personnel and their [State] The highest priorities of the ministry, “and that it” would take all necessary measures to protect the health and well-being of our employees, including the supply of vaccines “, they could not confirm the details in due to confidentiality concerns.
Hospital beds, doctors and nurses, ventilators, oxygen and drugs were all scarce. Almost a month after CBS News first reported these shortages – and despite government claims there is no shortage of oxygen and tons of foreign medical aid having started to arrive – there has been no significant improvement in the supply of these basic necessities.
But as people continue to die daily from a simple lack of oxygen, experts are increasingly worried about another shortage: vaccines.
Prompt, but no hits
The federal government officiallyfrom May 1, but there are not enough doses to put it into practice.
States like Maharashtra and Delhi had to postpone the rollout of vaccines to young adults altogether because they simply did not have enough medicine. Vaccination centers in India’s financial capital, Mumbai, were completely closed from Friday to weekend.
The youngest people invited by the government to book their vaccinations from this month, aged 18 to 45, struggled to find time slots available on the government’s online registration platform.
On Monday, Adar Poonawalla, CEO of the Serum Institute of India, which manufactures the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in India under the name Covishield, warned that the vaccine shortage would continue for months. He told the Financial Times that production would drop from the current 60 to 70 million doses per month to 100 million, but not until July.
This has heightened fear among health experts given the rate at which the virus is still infecting new victims and killing people across the country. Since lockdowns and aggressive vaccination schedules are the only methods that have been proven to contain infection rates around the world, there are concerns that such a delay could lead to countless more deaths.
“A really dark situation”
“We’re in a really grim situation for the next two to three months,” epidemiologist and economist Dr Ramanan Laxminarayan told CBS News, highlighting the vaccine shortage. He said he was particularly concerned that the epidemic tearing apart Indian cities may not yet have really affected much of rural India.
“With many parts of India still mixing freely without paying attention to COVID standards, we cannot bend the curve by focusing on places that currently have increases in cases,” he warned, suggesting that tougher measures were needed across the vast country.
White House chief medical adviser Dr Anthony Fauci also called for broader lockdowns and efforts to step up vaccinations in India.
“Right now, they should start vaccinating as many people as possible, with the vaccines they are developing themselves in India as well as the vaccine supplies they could get from other suppliers, which it be the United States or Russia… whatever country wants it, whenever companies are ready to provide vaccines, ”Fauci told the Press Trust of India on Monday.
India has so far only managed to give around 9.5% of its 1.35 billion people at least a first dose, according to government data. Only about 2% of the population has been fully immunized.
Epidemiologists around the world have warned for months that letting developing countries cope with major epidemics as wealthier countries forge ahead with vaccination programs could be short-sighted, giving the virus time. and a multitude of human hosts to mutate into. Some of these variants have already been shown to be more infectious than the original strain of coronavirus, and the problem is that one could evolve with significant resistance to available vaccines.
“No one is safe until everyone is safe,” Laxminarayan told CBS News last week.
Vaccines to come, but not fast enough
India started receiving doses of Sputnik V from Russia over the weekend, but this vaccine is still awaiting government approval and the doses rollout is at least a few weeks away. On Monday, Pfizer said it was in talks with the Indian government and is seeking “fast-track approval” for its vaccine, as India insists on small local trials for all foreign vaccines.
India announced fast-track approvals for foreign vaccines last month and invited Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna to sell their vaccines domestically, but the other two U.S. drug giants have yet to do so.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been criticized for exporting and donating millions of doses of vaccine to other countries – ‘vaccine diplomacy’ efforts made, many say, without ensuring his government got enough doses for the Indian population.
Modi’s government shipped some 66 million doses to a long list of other countries, of which nearly 10.6 million went as donations to low-income countries.
Arranging for the purchase, delivery and distribution of overseas-made vaccines could take months, and given the shortage of the two Indian-made vaccines currently in use in the country, India could continue to pay a heavy price. for the delays of the weeks to come.