Health

India Covid-19 cases rise, vaccination accelerates

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A beneficiary will be vaccinated by medical staff on January 16, 2021 in Pune, India, during a vaccination campaign against Covid-19 across India at Aundh District Hospital.

Pratham Gokhale | Hindustan Times | Getty Images

India reported more than 100,000 new Covid-19 cases in 24 hours for the third time this week as the most populous country in South Asia pushes its vaccination campaign.

According to the government, 126,789 new cases were reported on Thursday. Over 80% of these cases came from ten states, including the hardest-hit western state of Maharashtra, which is home to India’s financial capital, Mumbai.

Since the beginning of April, India has reported more than 779,000 cases, of which Maharashtra accounts for just over half.

Local authorities in Maharashtra have tightened restrictions, including curfews that allow only essential services to remain open. Other states are also preventively increasing restrictions as concerns about a possible shortage of hospital beds and doctors grow.

Lack of vaccine

India’s mass vaccination campaign, which began in January, has accelerated in recent weeks. From April everyone over 45 will be eligible for their recordings. Government data showed that more than 90 million doses of vaccine had been administered as of Thursday.

However, media reports this week said that several states, including Maharashtra, have warned that they will run out of vaccine stocks at a crucial point where cases are skyrocketing.

In response, the Indian government accused several states, including Maharashtra, of diverting attention from their failure to control the virus outbreak.

“Vaccine supplies are monitored in real time and state governments are regularly informed,” Health Secretary Harsh Vardhan said in a statement on Wednesday. “Allegations of vaccine shortages are completely unfounded.”

Correct distribution required

According to Randeep Guleria, director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and a member of the Government of India’s Covid-19 Task Force, India makes enough vaccines every month to vaccinate people over 45.

“These vaccines are made and there is enough stock each month. The problem is that they have to be distributed regularly to all areas. When states begin distributing, they have to make sure that they are distributed fairly according to demand.” Guleria said on CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Thursday.

“In terms of the actual numbers, when you do the (math) the deficiency isn’t there, it’s the distribution that needs to be done in the right way,” he said.

Guleria added that the situation in Maharashtra, as in some other states, is such that there are high vaccine intake in some areas and vaccine hesitation and inventory littering in other areas.

The “stressed” production capacity of the Serum Institute

The Serum Institute of India, which makes one of the country’s two approved vaccines – AstraZeneca’s shot, locally known as Covishield – sees it differently.

Adar Poonawalla, head of the Serum Institute, told Indian media that the company’s production capacity was “very stressed”. He said the vaccine maker needed about $ 400 million to increase capacity by June.

He told Business Standard that AstraZeneca had sent the Serum Institute a legal notice about delays in delivering vaccines overseas. In February, Poonawalla said his company had been directed to prioritize India’s vaccine needs and asked foreign governments to be patient.

Guleria said other vaccine-making manufacturers are being tapped to increase production. He added that India could soon approve a third vaccine – the Russia-made Sputnik V, made by pharmaceutical company Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories is manufactured.

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Robert Dunfee