NEW DELHI: India is ramping up its coronavirus vaccination drive as it races to stave off a third wave of infections.
On Tuesday, the country administered more than 8.81 million doses in 24 hours - the highest daily jabs since vaccinations began in January, the government said, reports BBC.
With some 32 million Covid cases, India is the second-worst affected country in the world after the United States, which has more than 35 million infections.
It is also only the third country in the world to record more than 400,000 deaths, behind the US and Brazil.
The government aims to vaccinate all Indians by the end of this year. But it’s unlikely to meet the target as shortage of doses and vaccine hesitancy plagued the campaign in recent months.
It’s currently vaccinating around five million people every day, but it needs to give about eight to nine million jabs a day to vaccinate everyone who is eligible by the end 2021.
Most countries, especially those in the developing world, have struggled to access vaccines - a challenge that India, as the world’s largest vaccine maker, didn’t expect to face.
Since 16 January, India has administered more than 565 million doses.
Some 440 million people have received the first dose and another 125 million or so have received both doses so far.
On Thursday, India reported about 36,400 new Covid cases - less than a tenth of its caseload at the peak of the second wave in early May.
But doctors say that a third wave is inevitable given that the country has fully reopened even as the threat of new variants looms large.
While the vaccination drive has gained momentum, experts worry about a gender gap - government data shows 6 percent fewer women are getting vaccinated. This is especially true in rural India where women have limited access to the internet and are hesitant or scared to take the vaccine.
Although a higher number of doses are being administered daily in rural areas, the share of population being vaccinated in urban areas is still greater.
In June, the federal government told the Supreme Court that 1.35 billion doses will become available between August and December. It would take about 1.8 billion doses to vaccinate all eligible adults in India. India is using three vaccines - the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab, known locally as Covishield; Covaxin by Indian firm Bharat Biotech; and Russian-made Sputnik V.
The government has also authorised Indian pharma company Cipla to import Moderna’s vaccine, which has shown nearly 95 percent efficacy against Covid-19. But it’s not clear yet how many doses will be made available to India.
Several more vaccines are in various stages of approval.
Vaccination is voluntary. State-run clinics and hospitals are offering free jabs, but people can also pay for a dose at private facilities.
The government is spending around $5bn to provide free doses at state-run clinics, public health centres and hospital