But there are few vaccines available to immunize people, with experts criticizing the government for its lack of preparedness in tackling the virus that killed nearly 40,000 people in April alone. More than 20 million Indians have now been infected as daily infection rates continue to break records.
Public anger is mounting against the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for mismanaging India’s worst health crisis since independence in 1947.
Experts say health infrastructure was overwhelmed as the number of cases soared amid a slow roll-out of the vaccination campaign. Modi’s government has also been criticized for allowing Hindu religious festivals and the election campaign to take place, events that turned out to be “super-broadcasters.”
Vaccination is one of the biggest weapons against the outbreak of the virus, but according to Our World in Data, as of May 2, only 2% of the 1.4 billion people in India had been fully vaccinated with first and second doses. . Almost 9.2% of the population received at least one dose.
Bloomberg reported that the government has not placed an order for vaccines in excess of 110 million doses from the Serum Institute of India (SII) – the world’s largest vaccine producer based in the city of Pune – since the start of the sales in December, barely enough for just 4 percent of its population.
The Indian government has asked SII, which produces the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, to stop all exports, affecting the global vaccine supply.
India has also approved the Covaxin coronavirus vaccine produced by Indian company Bharat Biotech.
Amid growing cases, the government last month accelerated emergency approvals for COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson, Novavax, Moderna and Russia’s Sputnik V.
More than 13 million people between the ages of 18 and 44 have signed up for vaccines, but hard-hit states like Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra have been able to immunize a very small population due to vaccine shortages.
Between January and April, India exported 11 million doses in the form of donations – out of 66 million doses of vaccine it distributed around the world – as part of its vaccine diplomacy program.
The vaccination campaign in India has also been politicized after the federal government asked state governments to procure the vaccines.
Public health experts and opposition leaders have called on the federal government to manage the immunization program instead of delegating it to state governments.