The Indian government is confident that the country can reach an ambitious target of more than 2 billion coronavirus vaccine doses by the end of the year, said Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri.
Last month, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said in a statement that India will have 516 million vaccine doses by July, including those already administered, and that the number will rise to 2.16 billion doses between August and December.
“We made advance payments to the two existing domestic manufacturers, Serum Institute (in India) and Bharat Biotech, to manufacture vaccines for the whole of May, June and July. We only got through May, ”Puri told CNBC’s Tanvir Gill in an interview. He said the government was also in advanced talks with other vaccine manufacturers.
The government is “absolutely confident that it will be able to achieve this goal by December,” added Puri.
In its forecast, the Indian government expects around 750 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is produced locally by the Serum Institute of India and is known as Covishield. Another 550 million doses of Covaxin, which is developed and produced by Indian company Bharat Biotech, are also expected.
People walking past a mural depicting medical workers encountering the coronavirus with a vaccine needle in Santacruz on March 29, 2021 in Mumbai, India.
Pratik Chorge | Hindustan times | Getty Images
Both vaccines are currently used in India’s vaccination campaign, which had more than 222 million doses given as of Thursday – but most of them are the first of the two doses required for immunity.
Russia’s Sputnik vaccine – the third vaccination approved – will add about $ 156 million to the projected balance sheet. Reuters reported that six Indian companies have already signed contracts to manufacture around 1 billion doses of the vaccine annually and that the Serum Institute is also applying for approval to manufacture it.
The government also expects:
In addition, India has also approved overseas-made vaccines that have received emergency clearance from the US, UK, European Union, Japan and World Health Organization-listed agencies.
Vaccines, the way forward
Experts agree that vaccinations are the way to go for India – both to get the economy out of the Covid crisis and to mitigate the effects of a third wave. But the hesitation of vaccines, in part due to misinformation spread about the gunfire, has been a problem both in India and worldwide.
Vaccines are also in short supply, which has slowed domestic vaccination efforts and forced India to stop exporting to other countries.
For his part, Puri said that adequate dissemination of information and education about vaccination was needed and that the government was doing its part.
India is battling a devastating second wave of eruptions that began in February and accelerated in April and early May, overwhelming the country’s health infrastructure. The sector struggled with a shortage of beds, oxygen and medicine as many doctors and other health care workers succumbed to Covid-19.
A doctor walks past the banner announcing a Covid-19 vaccination campaign in Hyderabad, India on May 28, 2021.
Noah Seelam | AFP | Getty Images
Some of that pressure eased as the central government and states stepped up efforts to deal with the outbreak while international aid arrived and provided some of much-needed medical care.
The daily reported cases in India have fallen from a high of more than 414,000 in early May. To date, the South Asian nation has reported more than 28.5 million cases and over 340,000 deaths.
Puri said the government has now identified ways to deal with challenges such as oxygen starvation, where stocks were running out in the hardest hit areas and logistical difficulties made it more difficult to get new supplies.
Originally, the government diverted oxygen to medical facilities for industrial use. Last month, the company stepped up efforts to streamline supplies by raising funds to install 500 medical oxygen systems across India in three months.
“When a third wave comes, and when it comes to our capacity to use it again and switch back to handling it, I think the infrastructure capacity is there,” said Puri.