Daily vaccination rate will soon increase exponentially, says task force member

The vaccination rate will increase exponentially in the next few weeks, says Dr. N.K. Arora, Head of the Operations Research Group of the COVID-19 Task Force. According to him, the number of vaccination sessions held each day has already increased from around 3,000 in the beginning to over 12,000 now. In the next few weeks, the number of vaccination sessions a day will cross 50,000.

As on February 20, nearly 10.1 million healthcare workers and frontline workers have been vaccinated. The target is to vaccinate 300 million people with two doses of COVID-19 vaccine by July, for which the daily vaccinations have to be over two million. However, the seven-day average is currently only 0.38 million vaccinations per day.

On January 16, when the mass COVID-19 vaccination programme began in India, only 3,352 sessions were held and 0.19 million people were vaccinated.

“The vaccination rate will increase exponentially in the next few weeks,” says Dr. N.K. Arora, Head of the Operations Research Group of the COVID-19 Task Force. “The number of vaccination sessions held each day has already increased from around 3,000 in the beginning to over 12,000 now. In the next few weeks, the number of vaccination sessions a day will cross 50,000.” Since each session can vaccinate 100 people a day, Dr. Arora is optimistic that India will be able to vaccinate around five million people every day.

“There was vaccine hesitancy in the beginning but more than one month after the vaccination programme began, we see an increasing number of healthcare workers coming forward to take the vaccine,” he says. “This is the first time anywhere in the world vaccination of adults has been undertaken. So there was hesitancy in the beginning.”

Dr. Arora adds: “India has the capacity to vaccinate millions of children. For instance, in the case of the pulse polio programme, over 170 million children are vaccinated in a week. Though it is oral administration of the vaccine, it testifies the ability of the programme to reach such a huge number of children in a week.”

Admitting that glitches in the CoWIN platform have been slowing down the daily uptake of COVID-19 vaccines, Dr. Arora says that in a week the glitches will be fixed. “In a week or two, people over 50 years will be able to self-register on the CoWIN platform and take the vaccine,” he says.

The population above 50 years of age, and people below 50 years with comorbidities are scheduled to start receiving the COVID-19 vaccine from March onwards.

When asked if more vaccines will be supplied to States such as Kerala, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir, which are seeing increased number of daily fresh cases, Dr. Arora says each State is provided with sufficient number of vaccines and it is for the respective States to increase the daily number of vaccines administered.

On Saturday, Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India, Pune, tweeted: “Dear countries & governments, as you await Covishield supplies, I humbly request you to please be patient. Serum Institute has been directed to prioritise the huge needs of India and along with that balance the needs of the rest of the world. We are trying our best.”

Published in The Hindu on February 21, 2021