India’s COVID-19 vaccination drive has achieved a historic milestone of administering 1 billion vaccine doses.
Figures shared on Thursday by the Indian High Commission in Nigeria showed that around 75% of the eligible population (18+) has been given the first dose, while around 30% has been given both doses.
The shared figures showed that India achieved this mark of 1 billion vaccine doses in less than 40 weeks, with the milestone exemplifying India’s prowess in various elements in the vaccination journey – development of new vaccines, production of vaccines, deployment, and technology.
India’s COVID-19 vaccination drive was launched on 16 January 2021, but preparations had begun way back in April 2020 with the establishment of the National Task Force for Focused Research on Corona Vaccine.
The statement from the Indian High Commission said indeed, a hallmark of India’s vaccination drive has been the high-level oversight and coordination, particularly by the Prime Minister himself.
It said India prioritized vaccine development and launched ‘Mission Covid Suraksha’ to provide financial and technical support to indigenous vaccine manufacturers, noting that this Mission is the force behind the world’s first DNA-based COVID vaccine Zycov-D, developed by Zydus Cadila, which will facilitate vaccination of children above 12 years.
It said the Mission also supported the capacity development of Bharat Biotech and provided support for infrastructure and technology development for other public sector manufacturers.
The statement read that: “Today, India is the only country that has developed multiple vaccines across multiple platforms (Bharat Biotech’s COVAXIN uses an inactivated virus platform, Zycov-D is a DNA vaccine, Covishield a viral vector vaccine, Gennova is in the running for being India’s first mRNA vaccine).
“For vaccine deployment and delivery, a comprehensive system of planning and implementation was put in place. Besides the National Task Force for Focused Research on Corona Vaccine, several expert advisory groups were set up at the highest level, including the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC) in August 2020, the Empowered Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (EGVAC) in January 2021, and the National Technical Advisory Group for Immunization (NTAGI) Working Group. India’s vaccination drive roll out was backed by recommendations of these expert groups.”
It said the National COVID Vaccination Programme initially targeted the healthcare and frontline workers as well as senior citizens, due to their higher risk perception. Subsequently, the Programme was rolled out to include people above 45 years of age and with co-morbidities and later, all citizens above 45 years were included. In the ongoing phase, all adults above 18 years have been included and vaccination is being provided for free at public vaccination facilities, which implies about 940 million people have to be vaccinated with two doses each.
It further revealed that on the approval of Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), three vaccines have been utilized in the Programme (COVISHIELD developed by Serum Institute of India in collaboration with Astra Zeneca of the United Kingdom, COVAXIN of Bharat Biotech International Limited and SPUTNIK V of Russia).
The statement said nearly all of the 1 billion doses administered have been Made-in-India, except for a miniscule proportion of Sputnik V (approximately 0.4 million doses). Moreover, more than 95% of those vaccine doses have been delivered by India’s public health system, a testimony to its reach and robustness. Nevertheless, private healthcare outlets have also been included in the implementation of the vaccination drive.
The statement said by the end of 2021, India is looking at an increased monthly production of COVID-19 vaccines, a larger basket of vaccine options and a larger proportion of her population fully vaccinated.