Are there renewed worries on vax production? A mediocre July performance will up the pressure hugely

Daily vaccinations surpassed 60 lakh doses on five days last week demonstrating India’s systemic capabilities in mass immunisation. Even 1-1.5 crore shots daily looks possible if production scales up. On June 21, when 90.86 lakh were jabbed, CoWin recorded 80 lakh registrations, signifying that digital divides can be overcome. Walk-ins account for 78% vaccinations now. But supply worries remain. GoI’s affidavit in SC affirming vaccination for all adults this year estimates availability of 51.6 crore doses by July and another 135 crore till December. For July, Centre has allocated 12 crore doses to states. But this translates to just 40 lakh jabs daily, woefully short of the daily 80 lakh needed to meet the December target. Recall MP alone did 17 lakh doses on June 21.

The US and UK, after single-dosing at least 50% of their entire population, have dramatically reduced death counts. But infection persistence is becoming a worry here. A state like Kerala with a good public health system, where citizens are likely to self-report symptoms, has plateaued at 10,000 daily infections despite two months of lockdown.  Maharashtra is again reimposing curbs as the Delta plus numbers spike. Both economy and public health need sustained high-vaccination rate.

There are other gaps appearing. States without big hospital chains are upset over private vaccination skewing in favour of metro cities. They have a point. Perhaps, states can offer interest-free loans to help private hospital associations or consortiums to make bulk procurement. Private sector’s 25% share means 3 crore doses in July. More private jabs allow states to target free vaccines effectively, besides easing GoI’s fiscal burden.

Covaxin is another worry. Centre is banking on 40 crore Covaxin and 45 crore Covishield doses in August-December. Against expectations of delivering 11 crore doses till July, only 3.86 crore Covaxin shots have materialised. From a 12% market share till date it must hit 30% from August. That will be a heroic ramp up. But heroes are in short supply. So, government should focus on Zydus Cadila, Biological E and SII-Novavax vaccines as fallback options. India can’t afford another vaccine slump.


This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.


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