The number of people vaccinated against Covid-19 in India has reached over 9.99 lakh on Thursday, the government said, making it the fastest rollout of the vaccines anywhere in the world so far in terms of sheer numbers.
As of 6pm on Thursday, a total of 9,99,065 beneficiaries have been vaccinated against the deadly virus, the health ministry confirmed, putting the country in touching distance of the 10-lakh milestone.
India, often described as the “pharmacy of the world” has managed to vaccinate a million people in six days. The United States had managed to inoculate the same number of people in 10 days, and the same number of days was taken by Israel.
The record-setting pace has been set despite some opting not to take the shots because of concerns around the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.
The country is using two shots – Covishield, manufactured locally and licensed from Oxford University and AstraZeneca, and another developed at home by Bharat Biotech in partnership with the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research – for the vaccination.
The drive started on Saturday, with 30 million healthcare and other front-line workers first in the queue, followed by about 270 million people older than 50 or deemed at high-risk because of pre-existing medical conditions.
The health ministry said India inoculated more people on its first day than the United States, Britain or France. In the first two days, it managed to vaccinate 224,301 people as compared to China, which had inoculated around 73,000 people in the first two days.
“This scale of vaccination campaign has never been attempted in history and this shows India’s capability,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said while opening the vaccine rollout on Jan. 16.
However, challenges remain for India as the country has missed its initial targets, partly because of glitches in the CO-WIN app that is the online platform for registration and partly because of hesitancy displayed by frontline workers.
The government has said it expected a greater number of volunteers, especially in major states such as Tamil Nadu and Punjab, which are lagging other states.
Vinod K. Paul, who heads a government committee on vaccine strategy, told a news conference health workers who failed to take vaccine doses set aside for them were not fulfilling their "societal responsibility".
India, the world's biggest manufacturer of vaccines, has also begun exporting shots on Wednesday to other countries in the sub-continent, in what has been described as Covid diplomacy that will help to counter China’s influence in the region.