Will India meet its target of vaccinating 300 million people by August?

Waiting and watching.
Waiting and watching.
Image: REUTERS/Amit Dave
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In November 2020, India’s health minister had said that the country will vaccinate 300 million people against Covid-19 by July-August 2021. Nearly a month away from the deadline, the country needs to maintain a consistently high pace of vaccinations if it wants to meet the aim.

So far, the country has fully vaccinated only 64.8 million people or about 21% of its target of 300 million.

To fully vaccinate the remaining target population by August, India would need to give out nearly 4.5 million doses every day, and prioritise second doses to those who have received the first dose.

The country has only recently achieved this pace and has administered between 4 and 5 million doses daily for the past couple of weeks. It remains to be seen if there will be sufficient vaccine doses to maintain this pace for the next two months.

The country was close to missing its target despite the fact that when its Covid-19 vaccinations began in January, this included only frontline and healthcare workers, the elderly, and those above the age of 45 but with co-morbidities. Since then, the government has opened up its vaccination programme to all adults over the age of 18.

Under 5% of India’s total population of approximately 1.3 billion has been fully vaccinated so far.

Share of India's population fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
Share of India’s population fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
Image: Our World in Data

This is a cause for worry in a country that likely saw its sudden and devastating second wave of Covid-19 because of the Delta variant. While this variant is more transmissible and reduces the efficacy of vaccines, those fully vaccinated are significantly protected against hospitalisation and severe disease.

A glimmer of hope in India’s vaccine programme

The government, even at the time of announcing this target last year, did not clarify if it meant fully vaccinating people. If that target was to offer at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine to 300 million people, it has met—and exceeded. A little over 20% of India’s population has been partially vaccinated.

Indians vaccinated with at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
Indians vaccinated with at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
Image: Our World in Data

Yet, India’s shifting vaccine procurement policy has also meant shifting goalposts.

India’s target for vaccines in 2021

Despite a global shortage of vaccines, and a dire supply shortfall in the country, the Indian government hopes to have enough vaccines for its adult population of 1.08 billion by December.

To this end, India’s health ministry set out a roadmap for procuring 2.16 billion vaccines between August and December, several of which have not been granted emergency approval in the country.

But one month after announcing this goal, on June 27, the government told the country’s supreme court that 1.35 billion doses will be available between August and December. This estimate was 800 million lower than the health ministry’s projection in May.