Focus on full vaccination: On India’s COVID-19 inoculation pace

With the increased supply of doses, the inoculation pace should not slacken

Updated - November 13, 2021 11:09 am IST

Published - November 13, 2021 12:02 am IST

Even as a small uptick in daily fresh cases has been reported in November, the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) has said no new variants of interest or concern have been seen in India. And variants other than the Delta one are now “negligible in sequencing data from India”. AY4.2, a Delta variant sublineage, which is slowly increasing in proportion to reported cases in the U.K., is, it says, “very infrequent” in India . In other words, the Delta variant , first reported in India last year and responsible for the staggering number of daily cases and deaths this year, is still the dominant variant. According to WHO’s weekly epidemiological update of November 9 , the Delta variant has become globally predominant and “outcompeted other variants” in most countries; 99.6% of genome sequences posted on the global database are Delta. Even as the daily fresh cases have been on an overall downward trend since a peak in early May, the pace of vaccination has slowed down sharply since hitting a peak in September. The average daily doses administered in November have been just four million, the lowest since mid-July, despite vaccine availability.

A greater concern is that only 38% have been fully vaccinated though nearly 80% of all eligible adults have received the first dose . Since full protection is achieved only with two doses, State governments need to pull out all the stops to increase the percentage of the fully vaccinated even while relentlessly increasing coverage. With Covishield accounting for about 90% of vaccines administered, the rate of administration of the second dose after the mandatory gap between two doses has always been very low. Despite people over 60 years and everyone above 45 being one of the priority groups included back in March owing to an increased risk of progressing to severe disease and even dying, nearly 43% of people aged 45-59 years and over 37% of those above 60 are yet to receive the second dose. Worse, about 10% of health-care workers are yet to receive the second dose nearly 10 months after the start of the vaccination programme on January 16. One reason could be complacency, particularly since daily fresh cases, hospitalisation and deaths have been dropping since the second wave peaked. The nearly month-long door-to-door vaccination campaign across the country this month to reach out to people who have been unable to access vaccines is, therefore, a welcome step. As proven in the universal immunisation programme for children to deliver polio vaccine, outreach programmes have a greater rate of success immunising the target population and in overcoming hesitancy and complacency. All proven and innovative methods need to be deployed to drastically increase vaccine uptake if India is serious in vaccinating everyone above 18 years by the end of the year and before a new variant emerges.

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