India coronavirus: Over-18s vaccination drive hit by shortages

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India has become the first country to report more than 400,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day, as its nationwide vaccine drive launches amid a supply crisis.

Some 3,523 deaths were officially recorded in the past 24 hours – but the real figure is thought to be far higher as many fatalities go unreported.

As of today, all adults in India are eligible to be vaccinated.

But several states say they don’t have the doses to carry out the exercise.

India had previously focused on vaccinating frontline workers and the over-45s. The country is facing acute shortages of medical oxygen and hospital beds, as a devastating second wave of coronavirus batters its health system.

Meanwhile, a fire at a hospital in the western city of Bharuch killed 12 people in the early hours of Saturday, the latest in a number of deadly hospital fires across the country this week.

How is India’s rollout going?
About 150 million shots have been given, equivalent to 11.5% of India’s 1.3 billion people.

Despite being the world’s biggest producer of vaccines, the country is suffering an internal shortage and has placed a temporary hold on all exports of AstraZeneca to meet domestic demand.

More than 13 million people aged 18-45 have registered for the jab, but states including central Madhya Pradesh and hard-hit Maharashtra have said they will not start vaccinating this age group on 1 May as planned due to supply problems.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal asked people not to queue up for injections as the Indian capital had not yet received doses.

“As soon as vaccines arrive we will let you know, then you can come for shots. We appeal to you not to crowd vaccine centres in the next few days,” Mr Kejriwal said.

“Many across the country have registered for vaccines but we have not received stocks. We are in regular touch with companies and we hope to get the vaccines in a day or two.”

Since the pandemic began, India has confirmed more than 18 million cases and over 200,000 deaths. It has the second-highest number of Covid-19 infections in the world after the United States.

The US has said it will restrict travel from India, beginning on 4 May, to try to stop the spread of Covid-19. Australia has gone a step further, making it temporarily illegal for its citizens to return home from India.

Experts believe India should ramp up vaccination in areas of high transmission and in five states where elections are being held.

Bhramar Mukherjee, a biostatistician at the University of Michigan, told the BBC the country needed to administer 10 million shots daily “instead of being complacent with three million” doses a day.

“I do feel frustrated that India did not roll out the vaccination drive more aggressively while the curve was in its valley,” Dr Mukherjee said.

Which vaccines is India using?
India has been using two vaccines – the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab (known locally as Covishield) and another made by Indian firm Bharat Biotech (Covaxin).

The Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine has also been approved for use, and the first doses are expected to arrive on Saturday. It’s not yet clear how large the shipment will be.

Agencies

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