India's vaccinations fall from peak as infections hit record

Krishna N. Das
·2 min read

By Krishna N. Das

NEW DELHI, April 16 (Reuters) - India's daily COVID-19 vaccinations have slowed from their record high early this month while new infections have set a record in eight of the past nine days, government data show, underscoring a lack of doses in the country.

After giving and selling tens of millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses abroad, India has suddenly found itself short of shots. It has abruptly changed rules to allow it to fast-track vaccine imports, having earlier rebuffed foreign drugmakers like Pfizer.

Vaccinations peaked at 4.5 million doses on April 5 but have averaged about 3 million a day since then, according to the government's Co-Win portal to coordinate immunisations.

The country of 1.35 billion people has reported the most number of coronavirus cases in the world this month, flooding hospitals with patients and filling crematoriums and cemeteries with the dead. Its caseload has widened to 14.3 million, the most after the United States, with 174,308 deaths.

The ferocious second surge, which overtook the pace of the first in a matter of weeks, had sent people rushing to vaccination centres, but many centres are now rationing supplies as output fails to meet demand.

India is vaccinating only people aged above 45 years, having started the campaign in the middle of January with health and then other front-line workers. It has so far administered 115.5 million doses, the most in the world after the United States and China, though it ranks much lower when accounting for population.

Many states have sought an expansion of the inoculation drive to include all adults as cases rise, but the government has said doses are "finite", although enough to cover the identified groups.

The government said on Friday the country had a stock of about 30 million doses. Going by India's immunisation trend in the past week, that will be enough to last 10 days.

As supplies tighten, India this week gave emergency authorisation to Russia's Sputnik V vaccine and imports to cover as many as 125 million people will start this month.

The government has also urged Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson to sell their shots to India and has made rules easier for them.

India has also allowed biomedical research body Haffkine Institute, based in the western state of Maharashtra, to produce the home-grown shot Covaxin as developer Bharat Biotech struggles to boost its output.

The AstraZeneca vaccine, locally made by the Serum Institute of India (SII), accounts for more than 91% of total doses given in the country. Production ramp-up at SII, the world's biggest vaccine maker, has been delayed by a raw-material shortage. (Reporting by Krishna N. Das; additional reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal; editing by Larry King)